FAIRFIELD—In musical theater, the term “the book” refers to the libretto or narrative that ties the story together.
In the case of “Godspell,” the current Missouri Street Theatre production, the book that its book was based on, the Bible, was written nearly 2,000 years ago.
“Godspell” is a musical by Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked,” “Pippin”) with a book by John-Michael Tebelak. Since it opened off-Broadway in 1971, it has been revived numerous times, and the song “Day by Day” from the original cast album reached No. 13 on the Billboard pop singles chart in 1972.
Sacramento’s Scott Woodard, a veteran performer in numerous Missouri Street Theatre productions and who also directed their Arty Award-winning “The Marvelous Wonderettes” last year, returns to the director’s chair.
“ ‘Godspell’ is based on the Gospel of Mark and the first act is the parables of Jesus,” Woodard said. “The second act is more of the passion play, but it doesn’t shove religion down your throat. It’s about love and acceptance and the story is more about a person affecting other people in a positive way.”
The musical is mainly an ensemble piece and is brought to life using a number of techniques including drumming, charades, puppetry, as well as song and dance. Woodward is happy with the assembled cast, which, he said, comes from a variety of places.
“They are coming from everywhere – from Oakland to Lincoln – and all meeting in the middle,” he said. “I am very excited about the show.”
Some of the excitement Woodward feels about the production is due to the fact that they are performing the version that was rewritten in 2012 with updated orchestrations that, he said, gives the piece a “breath of life” and makes it a whole new show. He is also pleased to unveil his particular vision of the production.
“Without giving away too much, it is set in a theater, modern-day, during a hurricane and people are taking refuge. The story takes place as they are waiting for the storm to pass,” Woodard said.
Oakland’s Michael Scott Wells, 28, who plays the role of Jesus, shares the excitement of his director for the upcoming production. Wells is not a stranger to the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts stage as he performed in Fairfield Civic Theatre’s “The Secret Garden” in 2009.
“This is one of the most talented casts I have ever been a part of. Everyone is so great with singing, dancing and acting – they are just so there,” Wells said. “We all realize it is an ensemble cast and they have been wonderful to work with.”
Wells was in a production of “Godspell” when he was 19, but said now he is able to put more into it as he understands the show better. His role is demanding, he said.
“It’s tough to be in 90 percent of the show. It’s a fun challenge to play teacher and friend, as the whole first act is about building this community all the while knowing how the story was going to end – that Jesus was going to die,” Wells said. “The challenge is finding a fun way to keep them captivated and all the while be friendly. It’s hard to balance all that.”
No matter what worldview audience members bring to the show, Wells is confident they can find something to relate to once the lights go down and the curtain goes up.
“I think if they are on the more religious side, obviously there are direct references and lyrics and quotes from the Bible, and I think they will appreciate that. If someone is more secular, or whatever, they can appreciate the message about loving one another and not being cruel to anybody. The show is about love.”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected].
Missouri Street Theatre presents “Godspell”
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 4–5, April 11-12
2 p.m. April 5, April 12
6 p.m. Sunday, April 6, April 13
Fairfield Center for Creative Arts, 1035 Texas St.