Day by Day across May, NOVA Music Theatre will be presenting the 2012 revival version of Godspell, based on the gospel according to Matthew, and the first musical theatre offering from composer Stephen Schwartz.
We spoke to cast members Leighton Irwin, Ella Leyden and Chloe Towan about putting together the show, it’s heavy religious inspiration and how they have discovered their characters.
“I’m fortunate enough to be playing the role of Jesus in NOVA Music Theatre’s production of Godspell. I relate to his sense of duty to others, to spread a message of hope & love, acceptance & peace” said Leighton Irwin on his leading role.
“Godspell is at its core is a story about humanity, our nature & our relationships with others. A group of people come together under the leadership & guidance of Jesus, & explore different lessons through interactions, song & dance & of course parables. It is a lively, colourful ensemble show that exhibits many elements of light & shade,” he said.
“There is a freedom in this style of show, as well as a wonderful emphasis on collaboration. This is something that has become quite prominent throughout the rehearsal process, & through workshops within the rehearsal structure”.
“Its content, like its overall story arc, is a myriad of styles & emotions, that paint a vivid picture as well as move through like a roller-coaster. It’s not structured in the same way many musicals are, it has been an interesting process. It is very easy, especially early on in the process, to feel like the show is a little disheveled, but then there are these brilliant “light bulb” moments, where things solidify, really start to make sense, & all the pieces start to come together” he said on the rehearsal process.
Chloe Towan is playing the role played in the revival by Celisse Henderson.
“I sing “Learn Your Lessons Well”. Godspell is an interesting musical in that it lets the actor project much of their own personality onto their role, which I have been experimenting with during the rehearsal process” Towan said on her role in the show.
“Godspell is a very funny show and requires an actor to exercise their full range of emotions. The rehearsal process for Godspell has been unlike that of any show I have been in. As it is such an open show we have been encouraged to ad lib and change certain lines, something that I have not done before in a musical” she said.
“I get to play a few different instruments in the show and am most looking forward to play the ukulele in my solo number. The show also contains so many songs with very intricate harmony work, there is always that ‘lightbulb’ moment when all of the voices click in together. Shuko Hirose our MD has been working so incredibly hard with us on all of the numbers in the show, and it’s amazing hearing all of her hard work come together” said Towan.
Ella Leyden is playing the role originally played on Broadway by Anna-Maria Perez Di Tagle,
“Anna Marie is the first of the eight to follow Jesus, singing the international hit ‘Day by Day’. I feel like I can relate to the character of Anna Maria as she is quiet and very innocent, she is quite young and is more of a follower than a leader although in certain circumstances she allows herself to push through and influence others to be strong” Leyden said.
“The whole cast has such wonderful energy and everyone is so friendly, it’s been amazing working with such a talented cast and crew. I’ve really enjoyed playing with the different scenes and having the opportunity to improvise, the dances are so much fun and we have explored many different dance styles including hip hop, lyrical, jazz, tap and even Motown funk” she said.
“I am most looking forward to the second act of the show, as it is so emotional and clear. The show goes from being fun and energetic in act one and half of act two and then there is so much suspense and passion towards the end, which is so great” she said.
“I’m also looking forward to allowing the audience to experience the song ‘Side by Side’ as the harmonies are stunning and the connection between Jesus and his followers is so strong which is complemented by complete stillness on stage”.
The show of course is heavily religious, as it draws inspiration from The Bible and focuses on the retelling of Jesus’ life. The cast are all reacting to, and interpreting this content differently.
“I have no particular religious affiliation myself, however I was determined to treat the material & the source material with the utmost respect. I found it to be quite enlightening & beneficial in finding my approach to the role I’m playing. I also found this wonderful resource book on the show itself, called “The Godspell Experience”, filled with anything & everything you could want to know about the show” said Irwin.
Towan isn’t particularly religious, so she may view certain elements of the show differently to some of her cast members.
“Godspell teaches love, a universal theme that can be embraced by everyone. What is great about the show, however, is that it is left open ended so audience members can interpret the ending as they see fit, regardless of their background” she said.
Leyden was baptized and raised as a Catholic, and although she doesn’t follow the church anymore, she cherishes the community that comes with it, and it has been a strong influence to her morals and way of life.
“The show is extremely religious, but at the same time, there are a lot of moments that everyone, no matter how spiritual, are able to enjoy” Leyden said.
The show plays from 19th to 27th of May at the Whitehorse Theatre in Nunawading. Tickets at: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=240643