Published: Jan 31, 2007 02:06 PM
Modified: Jan 24, 2007 11:37 AM
It was snowing when John-Michael Tebelak, a student in the theater department at Carnegie-Mellon University, arrived at the church for the Easter sunrise service.
He had been considering adapting the gospels of the New Testament for the stage, and he had found comfort and joy in reading them. So he was startled, he said, to observe that the prevailing mood among the people in the pews that Easter morning was irritation -- over the weather, apparently -- rather than celebration.
By the time he left the cathedral Tebelak was determined to try to recapture some of the joyous spirit he felt when he read the gospels.
The result -- after a few revisions and the addition of music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz -- was "Godspell." Tebelak's master's thesis project became a hit musical and then a movie -- and now, The ArtsCenter's 2007 winter musical.
The show, a part of the Front and Center and Generation Next Series, is a UNC student production done in collaboration with The ArtsCenter. Directed by Gregory Kable, it plays at The ArtsCenter, Jan. 26-28 and Feb. 1-4.
"We went around and around trying to figure out what play to do for this season, and it occurred to us that 'Godspell' would be a great choice," said Lynden Harris, the ArtsCenter's artistic director. "It's a wonderful family musical. It's been a while since we've seen it, and it's so exuberant and joyful, this seemed like a good time."
The musical is a modern, celebratory retelling of the gospel of Saint Matthew, with a score that includes "Day by Day," "Save the People" and "On the Willows." Tebelak directed a two-week run of the original version in 1971, with songs written by the student cast and lyrics from the Episcopal hymnal. Schwartz came on to write new music, and "Godspell" went on to run for more than 2,600 performances on and off Broadway.
The script specifies no particular setting, so for the performances at The ArtsCenter, Harris said, the play will be set . . . at The ArtsCenter.
"It's written so that it can be set anywhere, and we thought it might be kind of cool just to set it right on the stage," she said. "We needed more room, anyway, so we've opened up the curtain that normally hides the backstage area, where all the sound stuff is, and that's where we'll do it."
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