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Hatfield students perform Broadway’s ‘Godspell’  

  • Danny Hentz as Judas and Kory Wagner as Jesus Christ rehearse for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Danny Hentz as Judas and Kory Wagner as Jesus Christ rehearse for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Danny Hentz as Judas rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Danny Hentz as Judas rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kory Wagner as Jesus Christ rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Kory Wagner as Jesus Christ rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Juliana Cesario as Sheila rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Juliana Cesario as Sheila rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hannah Sassi as Robin rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Hannah Sassi as Robin rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cast members rehearse for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Cast members rehearse for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kory Wagner as Jesus Christ, front, rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Kory Wagner as Jesus Christ, front, rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Danny Hentz as Judas and Kory Wagner as Jesus Christ rehearse for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Danny Hentz as Judas rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Kory Wagner as Jesus Christ rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Juliana Cesario as Sheila rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Hannah Sassi as Robin rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Cast members rehearse for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Kory Wagner as Jesus Christ, front, rehearses for Smith Academy's production of "Godspell" Monday at the school.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

— It is time once again for the Hatfield annual spring musical, and this year, 24 actors from Smith Academy and 12 actors from Hatfield Elementary School will perform the popular 1970s Broadway hit “Godspell.”

Lucinda Williams, who is co-producing the musical, said the play is a perfect fit for the young performers.

“We chose this play because we knew that we had a large number of very talented and devoted student actors,” she said. “It is difficult to find plays that really use this many talents and ‘Godspell’ is one that does.”

The play is a colorful and joyous romp through a variety of parables based on the Gospel of Matthew.

Williams said that while the play was selected solely on its artistic merit, the religious aspect of “Godspell” was a big topic of conversation for the producers and Director Kim Overtree, as they did not want to appear to be pushing or promoting religion.

“It is just a play. It is a story of kindness and goodness and these are concepts that we all share as human beings regardless of our individual belief style,” Williams said. “Last year we did ‘Oklahoma,’ and we were not advocating that everybody move out West and become a farmer.”

Overtree said that “Godspell” is demanding because most of the actors are on stage throughout the performance, and while actors each play one basic character, they also take on different personas during the show.

“It has the appearance of being completely improvisational because rather than having a beginning, middle and end, it is a series of vignettes,” Overtree said. “To do so many different types of roles in one play is challenging for the students. I think that it has been a great learning experience for them.”

Frank Jackson, musical director, accompanist and conductor of the band, said that the play is stylistically different from the standard musical theater of past performances.

“This play draws on a variety of theatrical styles like vaudeville and burlesque and the music is sort of a cross between folk and soft rock,” Jackson said.

“Godspell” is particularly known for its musical score by composer Stephen Schwartz. Memorable tunes from the play include “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” “By My Side,” “Beautiful City” and “Day by Day,” which reached No. 13 on the Billboard pop singles chart in the summer of 1972.

Overtree said that audience members familiar with the original play may be surprised by new tunes that were added during the play’s recent Broadway revival in 2011.

Another interesting twist in the performance will be obvious from the beginning because the part of Jesus is played by a young woman, senior Corey Wagner.

Wagner said she enjoyed the complexities and subtleties of her character.

“I love this play and the music is fantastic,” Wagner said. “I wasn’t sure how they were going to have me play the part of Jesus — if I was supposed to be a man or a woman or just some sort of gender ambiguous character.”

Overtree said that she appreciates the manner in which “Godspell” celebrates the individual, providing lessons on embracing differences and celebrating our uniqueness.

“There is nothing in the world that creates self-confidence like the performing arts. At a time when kids are pressured to conform to whatever is considered cool, self-confidence and being your own person is so important,” Overtree said.

The play starts tonight and runs through Saturday, with shows tonight, Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. Performances will be at Hatfield Elementary School, 33 Main St. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students.

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