Updated: Jun 27, 2022
Belmont’s musical theater department will bring stories from scripture to life though song in the Troutt Theater.
Premiering the 1971 off-Broadway original on a Belmont stage Friday, “Godspell” tells a story of rebuilding a community using parables from the Bible’s New Testament.
It will be the first Belmont musical directed by a faculty member outside of the musical theater department.
Director Sean Martin, an adjunct instructor of theater at Belmont, attributes the milestone to the growth of the department, leading to more shows being added to its yearly lineup.
“The significance is that it’s a sign that the department is growing in big ways. I think in the most recent freshmen class they had in the mid-20s of new majors coming into the program. So it’s really an exciting time for Belmont musical theater because the program is expanding,” said Martin.
Martin was familiar with the musical prior to taking on the role of director, and even starred as Jesus while in college. Using his experience with the musical, and researching how and why the story was told, Martin said he wants the play to be a study of humanity.
The diverse cast, Martin said, is meant to reflect humankind as accurately as possible.
“As a director, I feel like it’s somewhat my responsibility to be able to provide as many opportunities as I can and to be as inclusive and diverse as I can. And I can’t tell a story about humankind coming together without showing all of humankind,” said Martin.
Jesus will be played by sophomore Josh Jordan, who said he was feeling anxious about proving himself as a young performer. Jordan said the silly personality of the character required him to “reconceptualize and analyze” how he views Jesus.
As an African American, Jordan is aware that he doesn’t fit conventional depictions of Jesus in theater and film, he said.
“It’s already a show where we kind of have to make it our own, but also all of the material that I would be looking for inspiration from didn’t resemble me — my personal appearance and my stature and everything. So it was definitely interesting to try to craft my own version of Jesus,” Jordan said.
Martin’s directing style was described as collaborative by the cast members, finding ways to fit their ideas into the show.
Sophomore Miranda McCauley, the show’s choreographer, said the themes of building community in some ways overlap the religious aspects of the musical.
To drive this theme home, they’ve made audience interaction a major tool in the show.
“Jesus comes into this community that’s broken and he brings it all back together, which is something the world needs,” McCauley said. “So we’re bringing the audience into that community too.”
This level of audience engagement is something junior Sierra Fermin said is one of her favorite parts of the show.
“I’ve never been in a show where there’s as much audience interaction as our version of ‘Godspell.’ I think it keeps us on our toes. I think it also adds a heightened energy to everything you do in the show, and allows us to feed off of each other and to connect and feed off of the audience throughout the whole show,” said Fermin.
‘Godspell’ will debut Friday night at the Troutt Theater and run three additional performances through Sunday.
Jordan hopes this musical will open the door for more collaboration between Belmont’s music and theater departments.
“A lot of the time we don’t get to cross streams and collaborate with people from the theater performance department, just because we’re in two separate schools. And I think a lot of us want that to happen more. So I think them choosing Sean Martin to direct ‘Godspell’ is maybe a first step in a little bit more collaboration.”
“Godspell” will be directed by Sean Martin. Book by John-Michael Tebelak. Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.
PHOTO: Josh Jordan (left) as Jesus with castmates in a dress rehearsal for ‘Godspell’ in Belmont’s Troutt Theater. Belmont College of Music and Performing Arts
This article was written by Gus Sneh.