Mark Dickinson has performed Godspell at the Sydney Opera House, chatted with its composer, Stephen Schwartz, and is now performing ‘Day By Day’ alongside Colleen Hewett. It’s almost a Godspell bucket list!
“To be perfectly honest, I’m probably the only person in the cast to know how awesome she is and know her history. I can still remember the earlier years of Godspell … I have memories of Colleen on tv in those early years,” said Dickinson.
Colleen Hewett performed in Godspell during the Melbourne season from November 1971 through to July 1972 and appears on the original Australian cast recording of Godspell. She went on to release ‘Day By Day’ as a single, which peaked at number one on the charts and earned Hewett with Gold Record status. She won the TV Week Queen of Pop Award in 1972 and again in 1973.
If singing ‘Day By Day’ in Melbourne with the former Queen of Pop wasn’t enough for Mark Dickinson, he also spent some time chatting with composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin).
“I was fan-girling all over the place! Godspell is actually among my all time favourite musicals and I played Jesus in my final year of high school, so it’s really close to my heart. I’ve been aware of his work for a really long time, so I was a bit of a mess when someone walked up to me … and said Stephen Schwartz is about to walk in the door,” said Dickinson.
“I’ve met some well-known actors and composers and celebrities over the years, but occasionally it gets the better of me and that was definitely one of them. I calmed down after a few minutes and was able to have, what felt like, a genuine conversation with him. I hung out with him for a good forty-five minutes.”
Mark Dickinson first portrayed the role of Jesus in his high school production of Godspell during his final year. Attending school in the Catholic system, he said the music from shows like Godspell, Pippin and Jesus Christ Superstar made their way into the school music program through the 1970s and 80s and so he was very aware of this music from a young age.
In this latest production of Godspell, Mark Dickinson takes on the role of Judas. Yes, he’s gone from Judas to Jesus.
“I’m in my 40’s. What do they say about naughty forties?” Dickinson laughed.
“But seriously, who, as an actor, doesn’t want to play the bad guy? And he’s the original bad guy isn’t he? Judas?”
Godspell Reimagined is a new interpretation of this well-loved musical.
“Rather than a cast of ten plus a band, we’ve just got a company of eight: four musicians and four actors. The musicians do some of the acting and the actors do some of the musician-ing. So it’s got a lovely sort of cross-over feel. We’ll all on stage together as a troupe.”
The new show was first tested in Gippsland to try out this actor-muso troupe format. It worked. After successful seasons in Melbourne’s Royal Botanical Gardens and the Sydney Opera House, Godspell Reimagined returns for a season at the Arts Centre, Melbourne.
In addition to Colleen Hewett, Bonnie Anderson is also joining the cast. Bonnie Anderson was the winner of Australia’s Got Talent in 2007 at just twelve years of age.
Mark Dickinson is clearly impressed with the now grown up Bonnie Anderson, “Gosh, she’s got a cracking voice!”
Despite some controversy when Godspell first appeared in the 1970’s, it’s a musical that still has broad audience appeal today.
“It’s very honest and heartfelt,” explained Dickinson.
“A couple of my friends came along to see the show and they are atheists and they loved it. They came away saying, ‘What a beautiful, beautiful show and told with such honesty’. They saw a story about a man trying to preach love, rather than hate. There’s a lot of scope for that, with what’s going on in today’s society.”
Love, not hate. Indeed, the messages in Godspell, regardless on any faith beliefs, certainly remain just as relevant today.
Godspell Reimagined is now playing the Arts Centre, Melbourne for a strictly limited season.