"Godspell" brought the life of Jesus into the 21st century in a colorful, upbeat way. Okoboji Summer Theatre started its 2018 season with a popular musical written nearly 50 years ago by Stephen Schwartz.
Guest director/choreographer Carol Schuberg came from New York City to give the play new life and renewed energy. Her enthusiasm for the story spilled over to everyone on the opening night stage.
First off, I want to give out two huge bravos. The first goes to Alex Meyer for designing an ingenious, colorful set along with an amazing talent for using props. The second goes out to Ashley Harrison for her costume designs. The costumes blended so well with the unique set and enhanced Schuberg's desire for the tone she wanted the play to take.
I was so glad to see the band members on stage instead of being hidden behind the curtain. Not only were they visible, but in costume and doing a bit of acting now and then. Musical director Tom Andes on piano, Greg Forney on drums, Tim Schumacher on guitar and Zach Clark on bass were fantastic. With well over 80 percent of the story told in music, rather than spoken dialogue, they were busy from start to finish.
Schuberg had a cast of 10 to work with. Three were professional actors and seven were Stephens College students. There was not one dud in the entire cast.
I was glad to see Tyler Breeding return to portray Jesus. His vocals were outstanding and he is no slouch in the acting department either. He is currently touring in "Million Dollar Quartet" so I am glad he could work in a couple of weeks in the Lakes Area to take this role. Bravo Tyler!
Matt Bender did double duty as Judas and John the Baptist. Working on his masters in fine arts at Western Illinois University, Bender is making his first appearance on the OST stage. He is so good that the audience hates him one minute and feels bad for him the next.
TJ Vinsavich is a recent college graduate who toured with the Bright Star Touring Theatre. His talents were obvious in his role as Lamar.
There are not enough words to describe the seven young student actors on that stage. Each of them did solo work throughout the show and each has an incredible voice. They are also talented dancers and are learning facial and body expression well.
Congratulations to Schuberg for nurturing that much talent and bringing us a first-rate production.
My 94-year-old mother attended opening night. She is Dutch and was raised in the strict Christian Reformed religion. I warned her that "Godspell" was going to teach those parables in the Bible totally differently from the way she learned them. She was so excited afterward. She loved every minute of it and couldn't quit smiling.
I talked to a man who attends every opening night all summer each year. He told me he is not religious at all. However, he smiled and said that was the best musical he had seen here in many years.
Obviously this musical will be enjoyed by people of all ages, faiths (or lack thereof), and backgrounds. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. It was awesome.
"Godspell" will be performed on the OST stage through Sunday night, June 17. You really don't want to miss this one!