What happens when you mix 12 talented people, with upbeat songs, energetic dancing, and an emotional, and literally, ‘biblical’ story? - you get “Godspell - The Musical” - the latest production at the Golden Chain Theatre.
The powerful two act musical, was written in 1971 by then teenager Stephen Schwartz (composer of “Pocahantas,” “Prince of Egypt,” Enchanted,” and “Wicked”). In Act One, a small group comes together to assist Jesus Christ form a community using a wide variety of games, storytelling, a dose of comic timing, and even a couple magic tricks. Each character takes their own internal journey, with their own doubts, pitfalls, and moments of reflection.
In Act Two, the community has been formed, and they are ready to experience the challenges of the events leading to the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. When Jesus is taken from the disciples, they remain a community, ready to share the lessons they have learned.
The musical, co-directed by James Mierkey and Jennifer Piccolotti, opened March 20, and runs weekends through April 4. The show features various musical styles, including rock ‘n roll, pop, R&B, ragtime, and rap.
Songs performed include “Day by Day,” “Light of the World,” “Learn Your Lessons Well,” “Bless the Lord,” and “Save the People.” A 12-member children’s choir also performs in the production.
“When we first discussed bringing Godspell to the Golden Chain stage, we were immediately struck with the weight of who to cast as Jesus and Judas,” Mierkey said. “These are the only two roles that require an actor to play a specific role ... the rest of the cast is a true ensemble playing many roles. Although I fought the notion of taking the lead role, I was desperately hoping a brilliant actor/singer would surface,” Mierkey explained. “Growing up in church, I have always had a picture in my mind of who Jesus is and the thought of filling those shoes, even on a stage, struck me with a strong sense of fear. How was I going to be able to portray this man who, Christians and non-Christians alike would agree changed the world forever?”
In seeing his strong portrayal, it’s apparent Mierkey has overcome those fears.
“Act One comes relatively natural to me as it is full of the teachings and parables that Jesus told to his disciples,” Mierkey said. “I am a teacher by nature and I felt very comfortable with the prospect of creatively and humorously retelling the timeless stories that Jesus told.”
But Act Two is very different - Jesus is confronted with the reality of his destiny. Betrayal by his brothers and sisters, confrontation with the leaders of the day, and the cross that iconifies the Christian faith still today.
“Needless to say, playing this role has taken me on a profound emotional journey and is incredibly humbling,” Mierkey said.
Mierkey credits the wonderful cast that surrounds him for the success of the production.
Yosemite High School math teacher George Rich, who admirably portrays Judas, has been a close friend of Mierkey’s for more than 25 years.
“We are very comfortable with each other, and the emotional depth that George brings to the role makes anything I do on stage seem so much more authentic than it would have otherwise,” Mierkey said.
Other cast members are Robyn Wages, Melinda Rich, Lyric Piccolotti, Stephanie Brock, JR Romero, Amy Schneider, Amber Person, Al Joyal, Gracie Robinson, and Elise Keeler.
Piccolotti and Mierkey feel the rated “G” production can teach many powerful lessons and values to both children, and adults.
The co-directors said they are are incredibly proud of this show.
“I am confident it’s the best musical to come to the Golden Chain stage to date, and it is because of the countless hours and sacrifice that so many people have put in to it,” Mierkey said. “My desire is that no one will remember who I am but that they will never forget the message of sacrifice and love that this musical brings to the forefront. I urge people to come and be a part of this amazing story.”
“Godspell - The Musical”: March 27, 28, April 3, 4 - 7 p.m. - March 29, 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15 general admission - $12 senior (55+) - $10 students, active military, groups (25+). Box office by phone 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday, or at goldenchaintheatre.org.
Details: (559) 683-7112, goldenchaintheatre.org.