Cast readies for performance of 'GODSPELL'

Jun 15, 2017 by

Rick Frederick, Special to The Bradford Era

Performers practice for Bradford Little Theatre’s production of “Godspell” Wednesday evening. The show will include a mixture of Pennsylvania and New York state talent. The show will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the St. Bernard School gym at 450 W. Washington St. Admission is $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students.

You know you’re in for an experience that’s a little out of the ordinary before Bradford Little Theatre’s production of “Godspell” begins.

The actors scatter throughout the St. Bernard’s gymnasium in costumes ranging from simple informality to more elaborate characterizations like the homeless-looking lady on a park bench. One woman pushes free popcorn; another is a jewelry vendor offering her wares. Actors play with tennis balls and basketballs and footballs and talk with incoming theater-goers. A solitary guitarist strums his instrument in one corner.

Then, at the appointed hour, the lights go down, the music conductor raises his baton, and a woman alone on the stage reads a quote from Socrates. Then the music begins.

As the music plays, each actor ascends to the stage, singing away. But all are singing different melodies in the opening number, “Tower of Babble.” It takes the entrance of John the Baptist (David Merwine) to settle things down with his song, “Prepare Ye.” Shortly thereafter, Jesus (Shane Oschman) joins the ensemble and gets the evening going with the acting out of parables, game shows, and of course plenty of songs by composer Stephen Schwartz.

The big pop hit from the show was “Day By Day,” but there are several other ballads and upbeat numbers scattered throughout. Particularly entertaining was “All for the Best,” in which Jesus and Judas don hats and swing canes in a vaudeville-type routine.

Throughout the show, there are constant references to popular culture, such as tunes and commercial jingles — there is even a “Doctor Who” reference on the set. One characterization of a rich man, by the very funny and zany Skyler Schapp, sounds an awful lot like an incumbent President.

Each of the 11 disciples in addition to Judas (also played by David Merwine) is identified only by a first name, which happens to be the first name of the cast member playing the part. All of these folks are gifted singers — each is featured in at least one song.

The real strength of the production, though, is the entire ensemble. Most of the musical numbers feature one or two vocalists to start, but end up as ensemble numbers. In addition to the afore-mentioned Oschman, Merwine, and Schapp, the group includes: Gabe Grey, Michaelah Hatcher, Adam Losey, Tanaka Losey, Bridgette Martin, Clay Nolan, Laura Piccioli, Connie Shanks, Marcia Wymer, and Nicholas Youngs.

The entire cast stays on stage for both acts. There is almost constant movement to ensure that the production does not bog down or seem static. There is no standing around. Much of the credit goes to Director (and Music Director) Eric Van Druff, but Choreographer Bridgette Martin deserves kudos for her inventive work with a cast which includes a range of talent in terms of dancing.

With all the references to the importance of love and loved ones, this is a nice entertainment to consider for Father’s Day weekend. Take Dad and Mom and the kids — it’s a terrific theatrical experience.

Showtimes for “Godspell” at St. Bernard’s School gym on West Washington Street are today, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

Originally posted in The Bradford Era: