By Tia Lynn Ivey
Morgan County High School (MCHS) drama students took on the legendary musical “Godspell,” the 1970s classic, which retells the Gospel of Matthew through music a modern day setting in New York.
Leanae Rose, the new drama director at MCHS, was eager and honored to take on the project, and believes all the hard work to prepare the students for the big show paid off.
“This show was absolute magic!” said Rose. “The students really stepped up and delivered a close to perfect performance each night, and the audiences were amazed at the level of professionalism they saw on stage.”
According to Rose, about 250 community members packed the new MCHS theatre for each performance over the weekend.
“Our community really showed up this weekend,” said Rose. “I could not be more proud of the students or the production. What a fantastic performance for our first musical in this beautiful new theatre!”
A total of 23 students performed in the play, with another 10 students running behind-the-scenes jobs. For Rose, who has taken on numerous musicals and plays for nearly 20 years, directing Godspell was particularly meaningful to her.
“Godspell has always had a special place in my heart,” explained Rose. “I performed in this show when I was in college and then went on to direct it multiple times in multiple spaces with many different young people over the years. This show is very unique. It allows for each cast to create their own storytelling experience for the audience so that it truly becomes their show. No one has or will ever see this show performed the same way twice. It’s what keeps audiences coming back time and time again to see this show—to experience this story and what a story it is!”
Godspell originally hit the stage in 1971, created by John-Michael Tebelak. The MCHS students used updated music and lyrics composed by Stephen Schwartz for their version of the play.
The play explores the last days of Christ, reenacting dramatized versions of Jesus’ parables, and interactions between Jesus with friends and foes, including Judas, John the Baptist, and the Pharisees.
“I can’t imagine that there is a better musical out there to not only be my first musical at Morgan County High School, but our first musical in this beautiful new space,” said Rose. “The community of Madison, your love for the arts, the support you show these students and everyone else around through the One Morgan campaign, proves that love is all around us in this city. I am so thankful for a community that values the arts in education. You are teaching these young people through not only your words but your generous actions that you believe in them and support them, whatever the cost. I am proud to be a part of this story, and I plan on being a part of it for many years to come.”
While Godspell has been performed countless times in variously creative ways, the universal theme that always shines through is love.
“If there is something that I have taken from this story each time I see it or direct it, it is to love,” said Rose. “If there is a mantra that I can instill in my students from this production, it is to love. If I can send a message through these amazing performers to each audience member at each show, it is to love. Love everyone. Accept everyone for who they are, and celebrate them. Celebrate their differences. We live in a world that teaches our children to be selfish. Advertisements, television shows, social media outlets and more attempt to shape us into what the world thinks we should be through the eyes of others. Judgment is passed on anyone who doesn’t ‘fit in,’ whatever that means. People argue constantly about who’s political views are correct and learn to hate those who do not share their views. It is a difficult world. I can’t imagine being a young person in this day and age, and I constantly worry about my own children and the challenges they are facing each day. What if we started to use love as the force that influences our words and actions in everything that we do? How would that change the world around us?”
MCHS Student Joshua Talevski played the iconic role of Jesus Christ, while MCHS Student Matthew Bailey took on both roles of Judas and John the Baptist. The ensemble cast included: Sarah Wadsworth, Anna Grace Bazemore, Jillian Usry, Daisy-Jane Buck, KK Bryant, Margaret Ann Bonnell, Lauryn Cammarata, Katie Williams, Emma Joiner, Maggie Davis, Joie Gillis, Mary Katherine Mathews, McCormick Anderson, Ian Garrett, Wyatt Howard, David Rice, John Duclos, John Kirby Murdoch, Levi Hubbard, Alex Williams and Nathan Smith.
Haley Hillis served as the stage manager, Carolyn Poling served as the Assistant Director,, and Brandon Rose served as the Tech Director. Tyson White created the lighting design for the production and Amelia Potter served as light board operator with Demwau Hodges and Christopher Bailey running spotlight operations. The tech crew consisted of Demwau Hodges, Reagan Reilly, Haley Hillis, Christopher Bailey, Jermira Anderson and Kire’onna Grant.