Unpacking "GODSPELL"

by Katie Cummings
First Stage Theater Academy Director

The Theater Academy has considered GODSPELL for the past couple of years. This year, Artistic Director Jeff Frank saw the revival in NYC and came back believing that we “have to do this show.” The newest cast on Broadway really brings the joy, excitement and community building to life and Jeff wanted our students and audiences to collectively feel these things. I’m excited that we chose this show for the 2012-13 Young Company season because it is a style of show that I have been in love with since I was young and can’t wait to direct it again.

This show at its core is about community. The students are actually playing themselves while interpreting the given text. As a production staff, we wanted the students to know from the onset that this is not about who is playing which part but that they are now all part of this GODSPELL family. All are important and equal. For this reason, when the cast list went out, we listed everyone as an ensemble and did not designate particular roles. We will create that in the
rehearsal room together.

One of the biggest challenges we foresee is overcoming the assumption that this is a religious musical.  Yes, there is a character called Jesus and another Judas.  Yes, this is based on the gospel according to St. Matthew. Yes, there are a lot of references to God. But at the end of the day it is about love, hope, faith, trust, respect, communication and community. Not about the religion. This show is about individuals coming together to create something wonderful. Unfortunately, those objectives are crushed when one of their own turns on them. At the end of the play, they realize that we need to depend on each other to continue forward with hope and love.

A sneak peek into the visual and thematic style of the show revolves around baggage – we all have it! Why not put a positive spin on it? Instead of using baggage in a negative way, we are incorporating baggage into the production in a way that shows how we complement each other. Maybe your backpack has something in it that completes what is in my purse. The use of baggage also allows us to be in anyplace and anytime. This helps tie in the universal themes in the show that have lasted for over 25 years in Broadway Theatre.

In looking at the production staff, the theme of complimenting each other’s “backpacks” has also come into play. GODSPELL is a draw to many theatre artists. Adam Baus, Leah Dueno, Chris Feiereisen, Tommy Novak, Patrick Schley, and Sara Zientek all approached me with “I have to work on this show! I’ll do anything.” Each one of them brings their own “backpack” chuck full of talent to this production that you will see both on and off stage.

I hope you will come and see this production because our cast of characters is made up of an amazing group of students. They will work together to tell this story to the best of their ability. They will be honest and sincere and inspire you to work together to build a beautiful future full of hope and love and community. It will be something joyous, creative and exciting, and who doesn’t want to see that?
First Stage Theater Academy proudly presents
a presentation of the Young Company

Conceived & Originally Directed by John-Michael Tebelak
Music & New Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Based on The Gospel According to St. Matthew

Directed by Katie Cummings
Musical Director Adam Baus

Friday, December 7, 2012 @ 7:00pm
Saturday, December 8, 2012 @ 2:00pm & 7:00pm
Sunday, December 9, 2012 @ 2:00pm
Youth Arts Hall, Milwaukee Youth Arts Center

$10 adults / $5 students, seniors, teachers, & arts industry
For tickets & information, call (414) 267-2970 or e-mail

The Cast:
Gena Davis
Matthew Felland
Kiaran Hartnett
Jordan Horne
Max Mainwood
Laura Mesrobian
Andrew Oppmann
Ashley Patin
Stefan Romero
Kayla Tillisch

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