A modern take on the Gospel according to Matthew is coming soon to the Peabody Opera House: Godspell, starring up-and-coming Canadian triple-threat Jake Stern, will take the stage Nov. 15 to 17. As the Peabody’s 2013-14 season continues, theater-goers also can take in more Broadway musicals and family-friendly performances, including Sesame Street Live: Make a New Friend, Jan. 16 to 19; Man of La Mancha, Feb. 7 to 9; Peter and the Starcatcher, March 7 to 9; Ghost, March 25 to 30; and Blue Man Group, April 25 to 27. LN recently spoke with Godspell director David Hogan about the new spin on this classic musical filled with love, laughter and life lessons.
What excites you about directing Godspell the second time around?
It’s a standout—just an extraordinary show. What makes it unique is the ensemble of actors—it’s a great one because of its collaborative feeling. Not only is it the greatest story ever told about Jesus, but it’s people sharing feelings through song and dance.
How is this production different from the original Broadway debut?
This is the new Broadway version, with a beautiful, updated orchestration. It’s very hip and modern—a really current and high-energy production.
Tell us about the show's stars.
The star of the show is Jake Stern, a 19-year-old singer from Toronto. Everyone is going to fall in love with him on tour. For this cast, I was looking for a high-energy, youthful group. They are all Canadian, so they have experience performing around Toronto, at the Stratford Festival and the Victoria Playhouse Petrolia.
Take us through the casting process.
Godspell is not just song and dance; it’s sketch comedy, so you have to look for a broader talent. But you can always teach someone something, so we have some performers who are beautiful singers, some who are extraordinary dancers and some who are great comedians. It all equates to a really strong company.
This show launched multiple stars during its Broadway debut in the ’70s. Do you foresee history repeating itself with this cast?
Absolutely. You don’t know the name Jake Stern now, but that 19-year-old will be on Glee and every other popular show out there. He is not only a beautiful singer, but a beautiful soul—with no ego. He’s a great leader who loves what he does.
Talk about the production’s music.
It’s all Stephen Schwartz music—based off of hymns, but all his own music. Schwartz is an award-winning songsman also known for Wicked, Pippin, and Disney’s Pocahontas.
And we hear the performance will involve an element of audience participation.
This show is very communal, with actors sitting together at the edge of the stage and singing (in the aisles). Every theater-goer has to take part—don’t be shy, play with us and have fun!
What message do you hope people take from the musical?
The story’s main theme—like the universal theme of Jesus—is love, and this cast really takes that seriously. This show is worth the investment to come and see—even if you think you know it, you’ll revisit it and think, Wow, I’m glad I went to the theater!