By Lofton Wheeles
For the Opelika Observer
Opelika Theatre Company is performing the musical “Godspell,” a musical based around the Book of Matthew in the Christian Bible and depicts parts of the life of Jesus Christ and his disciples.
The musical was originally premiered in the early 1970s and was written by John Michael Tebelak and composed by Stephen Schwartz, who is known for composing musicals such as “Wicked,” “Pippin” and “Children of Eden.”
Members of the community have also come out to help with the production. Beauregard native Abby Freeman is choreographer for the show; Martha Leigh Butz, a former music teacher for Opelika City Schools, is musical director and Carolyn Boone, a music teacher for Trinity Christian School, serves as pianist and musical arranger for the show.
Opelika Theatre Company Executive Director Marty Moore said she is also proud and excited that they have the opportunity to put on a production like “Godspell.”
“[Opelika Theatre Company] is a young community theatre. We pride ourselves in being an actively progressive theatre company with our choice of stage productions. We have proven to be a viable and measurable asset to the community.”
There are many expectations from the cast and crew of the musical. Alysa Richards, the musical’s director, is no different as this is the first production she has directed solo.
“My expectations for my cast is to tell the stories from the Bible in a respectful, yet fun way that people understand and that they would understand the stories better than in a normal church service,” she said. “My expectations for anyone coming to see the show is that they come with an open mind, open ears and an open heart and be willing to learn a few things, laugh and cry.”
The production was also the first time some of the cast members have participated in an Opelika Theatre Company production, especially for Morgan Jones, who portrays one of the disciples in the show.
“This is my first show and my first experience with Opelika Theatre Company and I’ve met a lot of new people and they’ve all become my friends,” she said. “I love being able to express myself through the show and learning the dances and the lines. It’s all really fun.”
The production’s numbers also have a rock-infused tone and one of the songs, “Day by Day,” was a top-20 hit on the U.S. pop charts in 1972. Many of the cast members, however, have their own preferences for their favorite song from the production.
“My favorite number is probably ‘All for the Best’ because it’s [my character and Jesus’] number together,” said Josh Kroll, who portrays Judas in the show’s first weekend. “To me, it’s probably the most upbeat one and the most fast-paced. It’s like not a rap, but it feels like a rap.”
There are many reasons why Opelika Theatre Company want people to come out and see the show. Garrison Brown, who portrays Jesus Christ in the show, gave his own explanation of why.
“I think people should come to watch it because it’s very fun and enjoyable,” he said. “It’s also very informational and it’ll help people because I know some people have a hard time trying to find God and this is a different play and it’ll help a lot if they came to watch it. It’s just great all around.”
Moore also has her own reasons as to why people should come and see the production.
“’Godspell’ is truly a labor of love and exemplifies everything that [Opelika Theatre Company] represents,” she said. “Don’t miss this amazing show on the life of Jesus told in song and parables. What better way to start the 2021 spring season?”
“Godspell” is a large production and, as Moore puts it, “it takes a community effort [to do the show].” The City of Opelika is a corporate sponsor for the production and the directors would like to thank Gary Fuller for this sponsorship.
The musical will be performed at the Southside Center for the Arts on March 26 at 7 p.m., March 27 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m and March 28 at 3 p.m. There will also be dates for next weekend, including a special outdoor performance at Opelika Sportsplex on April 2 at 7 p.m.
Tickets for the program are $15 or $50 for a four-ticket bundle. Opelika Theatre Company’s Venmo is @opelikatheatrecompany and their PayPal is firstname.lastname@example.org. All shows will follow social distancing guidelines set by the CDC regarding seating, face coverings and sanitation. For more information, call 334-663-2593.