After canceling the production in 2020 due to COVID-19 and postponing for almost two years, Lehigh’s Department of Theatre presents “Godspell: In Concert.” The performance opened March 4 in the Diamond Theater at Zoellner Arts Center.
The 2020-2021 theater season featured several fully virtual productions, however the department is now transitioning back to in-person engagement. “Godspell: In Concert,” will offer performances on March 9, 10, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m..
“Godspell” features hit songs ranging from pop to vaudeville. One of the songs included is chart-topping “Day by Day,” composed by Grammy and Academy Award-winner Steven Schwartz. The show, based on a book by John-Michael Tebelak, first opened on Broadway in 1971, with a film adaptation premiering in 1973.
Lehigh’s production features an ensemble of 10 students and a backing band. The story follows the journey of Jesus Christ and the Apostles.
Julian Abergas, ‘24, a performer in the show, recognized that there might be a misconception that “Godspell” isn’t exciting, but he is looking forward to the community supporting the performance.
“Religion can be a touchy subject sometimes,” Abergas said. “Maybe for those who are, I guess, more conservative with their religion, they might be judging. I just want them to have fun and keep their mind open.”
Nicholas Conti, musical director for the show, said this semester’s production is a slightly different variation from what was planned in 2020. He said the show is now presented as a rock style concert rather than the traditional musical. Conti said in the show the Diamond Theater is meant to emulate a large church service with the audience as the congregation.
The cast is a mix of original members from two years ago and new additions taking on different roles. Conti said this mix of returners and new members displays the determination of the department to follow through with the production.
“It was really a sort of case study of resiliency over the past two years,” Conti said.
Eva Ehrich, ‘22, the stage manager for the production, said she was in the same position for the show in 2020 and was brought back for her experience in theater and managing.
As stage manager, Ehrich said she helps with the casting process, runs the production meetings, serves as the point of contact for the show, makes sure everyone knows their role and calls cues. She is the first to open the theater and the last to leave.
“We’ve been on this road for two years and, here it is, it’s happening,” Ehrich said. “That was a really rewarding moment.”
In the original production of “Godspell,” most of the characters were named after the actors. For example, in Lehigh’s rendition, Abergas plays Juju in the show – the name most of his friends call him.
Abergas said he did theater in high school and wanted to continue that experience at Lehigh and saw that opportunity with “Godspell.”
“I felt really happy that my first role at Lehigh was something that showcased my personality and expressiveness,” Abergas said.
A large portion of the cast and production staff began working on the show in November 2021. Ehrich said the most difficult part of coming back in person was getting back into the time consuming role as stage manager. She said this is her first musical that has progressed to this stage of production.
On opening night, Conti said he was most looking forward to seeing the audience’s reactions to the show.
“They’re (the cast) so excited to present this story,” Conti said. “It’s an emotional story. It’s fun. There’s some improv. The actors are really having a great time inventing the story a little bit differently every night.”
Abergas said he was initially nervous, hearing the audience’s chatter as he was down in the dressing room, but felt comfortable once he went on stage. He said “Godspell” was a fun first show and he had a great time throughout the performance.
Being in a smaller ensemble has also allowed cast members to form close relationships with one another. Abergas said in working on the show, he has enjoyed the company of his cast members, which has ultimately helped him mentally and socially.
“I get to see my cast members and have fun and sing with them,” Abergas said.