Eureka College Theatre Department
April 9 - 13
By Stan Strickler
Godspell currently playing at Eureka College is a musical that is both timeless and somewhat dated. It is timeless in the sense that it is based loosely on the Biblical book of Matthew; it is somewhat dated in that it has the score and feel of a musical from the 70’s. That being said, it is still a quite enjoyable show and still has the power to entertain. The story line of Godspell does not follow Christ’s life chronologically; rather it reveals the central message of the Gospels through various parables, both acted and sung. Thus the audience is presented with a stage version of the prodigal son, the good Samaritan and many other parables. It ends with a crucifixion scene and the resurrection.
The show begins with the cast dressed in long black trench coats carrying briefcases emblazoned with the name of various philosophers and thinkers throughout the ages. Unfortunately at that time, the stage is very dark so unless you are paying strict attention, you might miss some of the characters. I was able to catch Socrates, Galileo, and L. Ron Hubbard, but only because I was sitting in the front row and several characters walked directly in front of me. While the darkness certainly showed the “Tower of Babble” of our lives, trying to make sense of it until the coming of Christ, I think it lost something when we do not recognize who these characters are so that we might miss the point of the babble of the ages.
Tim Jenkins as John the Baptist appears through the doors to the auditorium singing the familiar “Prepare ye the Way of the Lord,” and the characters appear dressed in colorful outfits. If one wonders if we have an energy crisis, one only need to attend this production and the energy of the cast will dispel any of that notion. The entire cast sings and dances its way through the various parables and lessons of Christ very able.
Standouts in the show include Tim Jenkins as John the Baptist/Judas Iscariot. Tim has a wonderful vocal quality and a stage presence to match. His opening number “Prepare the Way of the Lord” and the closing number “On the Willows” were memorable and standouts in the show. He has a rich singing voice that makes the audience pay attention. His last number was really moving as he describes the crucifixion and his feeling about it. He gave a truly outstanding performance.
Also not to be missed were Megan Simpson, Jessica King, and Joel Shoemaker. Megan clad in a leopard print skirt flirted with the audience as she sang “Turn Back O Man.” Jessica really belted out the opening of “By my Side” in a full gospel voice that certainly made the audience take notice. Joel belted out “We Beseech Thee” and seemed to have fun with the number as he danced around the stage.
Jake Geiger as Jesus dressed in the typical Superman shirt did a fine job, however I wish that he had a stronger voice. Also performing capably were Joanna Guevara, Sarah Hall, Kristi McConnell, Andy Schoepke, and Christ Tam. They were all quite energetic and gave fine performances that varied from Evangelical preachers to magicians to dancers and vaudeville performers. If anyone asks about an energy crisis, they only need to see this show because it is filled with enough energy to run the entire country for the next year.
Because the show has an undeclared setting it is up to the director and set designer to create that setting. Here the setting seems to be and urban garbage dump filled with all manner of things. Various props keep appearing seemingly from nowhere, but carefully hidden under the stage or in garbage cans. This design adds magic to the show and creates its own set of miracles. Credit should be given to Mary Wenzel the set designer and props coordinator for the inventive way that the set and props were used. The tall ladder like construction that was used for the crucifixion was especially meaningful because it kept the audience focused throughout the play on the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. The sheer number of props collected was also quite impressive. The lighting design by Sarah Akerman was also effective. Although the opening in darkness is very effective with various spotlights and lamps, the audience may not been aware of who the dark clad figures were.
The band for the show lead by Laura Weaver Hughes was excellent. She was also the musical director and should be congratulated on her work in bringing out the best in the singers and the band. All in all this production was truly magical and full of energy and talent. It continues through to lay on April 10, 11, and 13 at 7:30 p.m. and on April 12 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 and are available by calling 309-467-6363. For more information, visit http://www.eureka.edu/event/godspell
Posted April 10, 2014