Fall Musical Casts a [God]spell on Audiences

Mt. Hebron’s second rendition of “Godspell” wowed packed audiences during its four-show run from Nov. 11-14. Under the guidance of veteran director and resident theater enthusiast Mr. Tom Sankey, “Godspell” succeeded in showcasing the immense talent of the dozens of students and community members involved in the production of the rock musical.

“Godspell” is based on John-Michael Tebelak’s book by the same title written in the mid-1900s. It first opened off-Broadway in May 1971 then continued to be revived by numerous organiations and theatrical societies until it became a Broadway musical in 1976 at the Broadhurst Theatre.

“Godspell” sets the parables and life of Jesus to music in a modern setting, drawing on current pop culture events and entities in an attempt to better convey the meaning of the stories to a more diverse audience. Mt. Hebron’s production proudly displayed classical biblical stories such as “The Prodigal Son” and “The Four Types of Soil,” complete with topical references to Donald Trump, Sankey-isms, the Occupy Wall Street movement and, lest we forget, an abundant usage of the Nae-Nae within the show’s choreography, which was masterfully planned by junior Alyssa Tschirgi and Mt. Hebron alumnus Kassi Mattera.

“Godspell,” in its most basic state, is, in many ways, unlike any other Mt. Hebron musical ever performed. The majority of the actors did not have set roles, shifting characters from scene to scene in order to convey as many stories as possible. In addition, “Godspell” only had a cast of 16, and each actor played all the parts in the musical. Most notably, “Godspell” stands out as one of the few plays that is never presented the same way twice. Each new performance included different jokes and dialogue that allowed audiences to witness the true skill and adaptability of the cast.

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The cast poses after finishing a number.

Though many aspects of “Godspell” may have been unique to the production, some underlying aspects of a Mt. Hebron theater production have stayed constant — namely, the enormous amount of student talent and skill that is showcased in these musicals each year.

Tschirigi left audiences stunned with her noteworthy vocals in “Tower of Babble,” in which she portrayed Socrates and conveyed the plethora of conflicting opinions regarding God throughout history. Tschirgi’s smooth alto voice also shone in her heartwarming rendition of “Day by Day,” which was performed with a complicated sign language-based choreography.

Throughout the entire play, junior Ilan Pluznik was able to convey a vast array of emotions that greatly added to the musical’s overall impact on the audience. Pluznik gave a sinfully beautiful performance as the Bible’s most notorious traitor, Judas.  With his masterful facial expressions, Pluznik was able to truly embody the inner conflict, doubt, and turmoil that took place behind one of the most iconic scenes within the Bible, the Betrayal of Jesus.

Senior Jake Kempic and junior Sam Bishop have absolutely been given “All Good Gifts.” Kempic, who has previously starred as the lead in multiple Sankey plays, displayed his intimidating vocal prowess in “Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord.” Meanwhile, Bishop’s dulcet tenor in “All Good Gifts,” filled the hearts of all who watched with happiness and joy.

Throughout the entire musical, Junior Emma Kate Davis was truly able to “Bless the Lord” and delivered a breakout performance that highlighted her impressive vocal range. Davis’ coy acting persona and natural charisma ensured that this performance was truly one for the ages. Juniors Edima Essien, Grace Dillon, Amanda Jackson and Megan Scarbath also gave energetic performances in their various roles and were able to flawlessly transition from character to character while simultaneously cracking jokes that left the audience in stitches.

Veteran actors seniors Kendall Grove and Kaeli Tilghman are truly triple-threats: actors, singers and dancers. They were able to go above and beyond the already high expectations set for them and wow the audience with their talent and obvious experience.

Through his awe-inspiring and remarkable performance as Jesus, senior Tharen Rice cemented his status as Hebron theatrical royalty. Rice unequivocally brought members of the audience to tears with his sweet crooning and heart-breaking interpretation of the Crucifixion.  What truly elevated Rice’s depiction of Jesus to an ethereal level was the amount of raw, unadulterated emotion that he was able to convey by way of facial expressions and body language. As the Drum Major of Mt. Hebron’s Marching Unit and the lead in several Mt. Hebron plays of the past, Rice will truly be missed by the theater and music departments as he leaves for college in the Fall.

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Tharen Rice (center) spins Megan Scarbath (center) on stage with Edima Essien (left) and Amanda Jackson (right).

As a rock musical, “Godspell” is defined by the range of different music that is combined to set the scene. In Mt. Hebron’s production, this was provided by the talented Pit Band under the direction of music teacher, Mr. Christopher Hettenbach, who also gave a beautifully mournful rendition of “On the Willows.” Emotional scenes such as the Crucifixion would not have made nearly as big of an impact without the Pit Band’s masterful execution of the difficult music.

As in any theatrical production, it would have been impossible for “Godspell” to have shed light on Mt.Hebron’s abundance of talent were it not for the hard work of the tech/lighting crew, under the supervision of English teacher Ms. Samantha Duvall and senior Caralyn Anderson. The school’s administration, Math teacher Ms. Michelle Vealey, Special Education teacher Ms. Michelle Mann and parent volunteer Ms. Lisa Scarbath also helped with the musical’s success.

As I am a senior this year, “Godspell” marks the final production I will write for The Mountain. Although it is one of the fundamental rules of journalism to keep the articles separate from the personal views of the author, I would like to break this rule for a moment in order to express how honored I am to have been the resident theater critic for the newspaper. I would like to thank my brilliant mentor, Alia Abdelkader, for teaching me how to write a review and my editors-in-chief, Rachel Bowman and Jamie Wright, for allowing me to.

Most of all, I would like to thank my wonderful teachers, English teacher and Journalism Advisor Ms. Rachel Fulchino, for teaching me and giving me a platform to express my thoughts and opinions on Mt. Hebron’s theater program, and Mr. Sankey, for establishing and breathing life into the program. The continued success and refinement of Mt. Hebron’s theater program shows that they are truly Mr. Sankey’s labor of love to the school.

Categories: Editorials, Opinions

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