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Catawba’s ‘Godspell’ promises “Thou Shalt Rock!”

By Catawba students Emily Owens and Lauren Stacks

“If I had to choose one word to describe the show, it would be love.” — Professor Joe Hernandez, director

In Catawba College’s production of John-Michael Tebelak and Stephen Schwartz’s “Godspell,” director Joe Hernandez dissects the nitty-gritty details embedded in the script of a 20th century musical theatre staple. The script presents the Gospel from the Biblical book of Matthew in a fun, simplistic fashion with Jesus and a group of players.

Written as a rock musical, Godspell is a show that too easily slips into simple lightheartedness. Hernandez’s approach modernizes the show to fully realize the concept of community. One of the reasons Hernandez savors the challenge of “Godspell” is because he loves creating arts that makes a difference. Hernandez will do so in this production by incorporating modern societal struggles.

Catawba’s “Godspell” focuses on issues that impact contemporary American culture, especially for those who look different, whether by skin color, chosen gender, or scars from past mistakes. Whether atheistic, unsure, or desiring to be a follower of Christ, everyone will be able to see themselves represented in some way. Each character struggles with a specific burden, ranging from drug addiction to spousal abuse. After opening up and accepting Jesus, each character experiences a transformation. No matter who you are, what you look like, or where you come from, you will know that you are loved by Jesus.

Senior BFA Musical Theatre major Jean White of Bluffton, S.C., plays Uzo, who is developed as a transgendered character. In this production, Uzo transforms from a typical, attractive, socially accepted female into a man tormented by social judgment and rejection. After finding Jesus, Uzo finds acceptance in perfect love.

Although this theatrical portrayal is much more controversial than the original, the cast has made the conscious decision to focus on the joy in the text. White has found the joy in the rehearsal process despite the strong possibility of her character being reprimanded by audience members.

“The idea that you can be accepted and loved for who you are is really important for people to understand,” shares White. “It’s especially important for people who don’t see the world that way. I hope those people come and see Godspell.”

Join Catawba as it production of Godspell takes audiences on transformative journey to discover how director, Joe Hernandez his assistant director, Jessica Weaver of Simpsonville, S.C., and his colorful cast intertwine societal oppression, dance, and lightheartedness to tell a story of love, acceptance, and redemption.

Cast members, in addition to White, include Jacob Hammill of Gold Hill; Samuel Yeager of Elizabeth City; B’jon Wright of Gwnn Oak, Md.; Christopher Lange of Port Republic, Md.; Victoria Whetzel of Vale; Gloria Kelly of Valrico, Fla.; Shannon Harris of Reidsville; Daniel Morrison of Greensboro; Richard Lugo of Virginia Beach, Va.; Lauren Stacks of Winston-Salem; Ian Buff of Winston-Salem; Payton Coleman of Concord; Taylor Kroop of Boynton Beach, Fla.; Zach Dietz of Panama City, Fla.; Kayla Guffy of Clemmons; Charlee Beth Haddock of Florence, Ala.; Kevin Kent of Indian Trail; Collette Simkins of Baltimore, Md.; Matthew Schulman of Huntersville; and Peyton Glendinning of Panama City Beach, Fla.

Show dates: Nov. 10 through 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Catawba’s Hedrick Little Theatre. 

Tickets: $15 for general admission, $13 for non-Catawba students and senior citizens, available at 704-637-4481 or www.catawba.edu/theatretix or at the door.

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