Godspell cast and director talk to Theater Fans Manila about putting together the 3-time Grammy and Academy Award winning production from acclaimed composer Stephen Schwartz.
“I didn’t think in my age I would do rap!” Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo told Theater Fans Manila about a scene in the upcoming Music Artes Inc. production, Godspell where, instead of normal delivery of lines, the scene is acted and sung in rap.
“Ejay, our brilliant musical director, created this whole rap number complete with back-up and it’s really fun. It’s very contemporary and it’s not in the script.”
(READ: Prepare Ye the Way for Godspell)
In the original book by John-Michael Tebelak, certain parts of the script are open to interpretation and director Dr. Anton Juan takes advantage of this creative freedom.
“[My interpretation] is as diverse as it can be. I have a parable where everything is going to be done in rap. There’s also an African-inspired number and a Brazilian-inspired one where some of the cast are doing capoeira,” Anton told Theater Fans Manila. “You’ll be surprised that we have such a diverse and talented group that even Menchu, who has never done rap before, is doing hiphop.”
Menchu also muses that the production will be done in a way that the young people will readily relate to it saying,
“There’s a lot of issues that are very important and relevant today. When they did this in the 70s the issues then were different. That’s why [in our Godspell] we have cellphones, we include social media. It’s going to be updated to the times.”
(READ: Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo leads Powerhouse Cast of Godspell)
On Level of Difficulty
Godspell was the first major musical theatre offering from Stephen Schwartz who is also known for Wicked, Pippin, and Children of Eden. Led by the international hit “Day By Day,” Godspell features an array of beloved songs including “Prepare Ye The Way Of The Lord,” “Learn Your Lessons Well,” “Turn Back, O Man,” and “By My Side.”
“A lot of the songs by Stephen Schwartz are incredibly full with voices, complicated, and difficult. It took several days for the prologue. It took a whole day for ‘By My Side’ but I think there’s no better cast to do it,” says Godspell Jesus, actor Jef Flores, when asked about the song rehearsals. “I think musical theatre fans will be blown away by the singing. Godspell is a very tall order but I think we can make it.”
Godspell is based largely on the Gospel of Matthew and narrates the parables of Jesus Christ with the help of a small group of people using a wide variety of story-telling techniques and great dose of comic timing. An eclectic blend of songs ranging in style from pop to vaudeville is employed as the story of Jesus’ life dances across the stage.
“It’s like any other musical but what makes Godspell difficult is it’s non-linear. It’s a bit like improv,” says Menchu. “The whole of Act I are the parables and the whole of Act II is the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. It’s not like one story that comes from a beginning to an end. It’s really in putting it together that is a process.”
(TEAM TFM Goes Behind the Scenes at Godspell Manila)
Menchu adds that in seeing Godspell,
“People can expect to be wowed and reminded about their spirituality and knowledge of what the world is going through right now.”
Jef points out that all the parables all come together in the finale.
“The finale will take every emotion and thought that has ever provoked throughout the show and it will culminate into a single idea,” teases Jef about the show finale. “I think whatever faith or kind of religion you are I’m sure the story will grab you. I’m sure.”
The God in Godspell
“There’s something very spiritual about doing Godspell. Some numbers hit me very strongly. The finale hit me very strongly when we sing about Jesus dying. It’s (the songs) are very emotional and a lot of times we find ourselves very moved in our own way,” Menchu told Theater Fans Manila when asked about her experience in putting together Godspell. “It’s different when you’re trying to tell a story and promoting that with telling the teachings of Christ. It does something to you, it really does. I get affected and I hope our audiences will, too. That is the goal.”
On his part, Jef takes in the technical as well as the emotional gains from the experience.
“I’m definitely changing, learning a lot of tools as an actor. [The production] opened my eyes to a lot of different techniques. I know it’s expending me as an actor because I’m doing things as an actor that I would not naturally do. At this point in the process there are moments, not just in the songs, more so in the scenes, the ideas that go through my head why I’m singing them, what I mean by the words. I get emotional.”
Godspell was conceived and originally directed by John-Michael Tebelak with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. The Manila staging will be directed by Dr. Anton Juan with musical direction by Ejay Yatco, choreography by Dexter Santos, production design by Otto Hernandez and lighting by John Batalla.
Godspell will be staged at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza , Makati City on June 17 (8pm), June 18 (8pm), June 19 (3:30pm), June 24 (8pm), June 25 (3:30, 8pm), and June 26 (3:30, 8pm). For tickets, call 895 8098, 519 3603, 577 1046, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or Ticketworld at 891 9999 or visit ticketworld.com.ph.
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