Villanova Student Musical Theatre casts a ‘Godspell’

Tania Jachens

This is not your average theology lesson, nor is this your typical musical. This is Villanova Student Musical Theatre’s spring production of “Godspell,” a show unlike any other ever presented at Villanova. “Godspell” in and of itself is a unique musical with so many possible interpretations that it is rare to see two productions of this play that resemble each other.

 The show is based on a series of parables told by Jesus and his group of disciples, therefore our very own St. Thomas of Villanova Church is a fitting setting for the musical.  

Director Rev. David Cregan, O.S.A., chose this unlikely setting as part of his vision for “site-specific theater.”

 By choreographing the show specifically for this church setting, it allows for more authentic performances and greater ease in improvisation, as well as genuine audience engagement.

 Throughout the show, the actors fully utilize every aspect of the church by emerging from the pews, dancing in the aisles, preaching from the pulpit, singing from the organ loft and interacting with the audience. Be sure to keep an eye out for the characters’ sudden stage entrances.

This production’s opening scene begins with a choir singing during Mass, which is suddenly interrupted by the appearance of John the Baptist telling us to “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” Jesus, played by freshman Alex Kersten, then appears, followed by his lively and exuberant disciples. 

From the start, there is a sense of familarity among the cast — the actors perform as though they have just gotten together to hang out, sing songs, and tell stories. Even so, each disciple has a distinctly different connection with Jesus, an aspect Cregan wants to focus on. 

Cregan wanted each actor to have a “spiritual engagement with the script and to ask ‘What is my relationship with Jesus?'” 

This allowed  the actors to make the parts their own and use natural improvisation. All the disciples take turns under Jesus’ tutelage and supervision to act out the messages of different parables, such as “The Sower and the Seed,” “The Good Samaritan” and “The Prodigal Son,” but they do so with modern and comedic twists. 

With perfectly timed choreography and reactions, as well as ridiculous accents and slap-stick, “Godspell” brings levity to topics, such as greed, lust, envy and betrayal, which are typically treated solemnly in the Gospels. 

The cast is always moving, so most of the show can be classified as carefully controlled chaos. 

Audience members will want to clap along with the rousing songs of “Light of the World,” “Day by Day” and “We Beseech Thee,” while “By My Side” and “On the Willows” will tug at their heartstrings. 

As the play progresses, the members of the church choir slowly become reintegrated back into the play and more involved in the story. 

While the show progresses more like a flowing stream of thoughts rather than a rigidly structured musical, it allows the audience to develop a greater connection with this diverse group of characters and relate to their struggles as they question and ultimately grow in their faith. 

Student tickets will be sold in Connelly Center for $6, but are also available online or for $7 at the door.