BY SYDNEY STUMPF & SABRINA MONTEIRO
The fall musical Godspell, performed by Malden High School’s Play Production class, was first created and directed by John-Michael Tebelak, who also wrote a book based on the musical. The music and new lyrics were written by Stephen Schwartz. The musical’s first performance was in 1970 and was performed off-broadway on May 17th, 1971.
Godspell was presented at the high school by students in grades 10th-12th. It was performed in the Jenkins auditorium for three days. From Thursday, November 17th - Saturday, November 19th. The play was based off the teachings of God and some events that occurred in the play were from the Bible itself. The characters were dressed in all different types of clothing. Some were dressed as hipster, some geeky and some chic. The characters learned to forgive and love their enemies, even if they’ve said or done the most horrible things. It brought real emotion to not only the actors, but to the audience as well. Plenty of jokes and lots of singing & dancing helped to bring the story to life.
Miranda Libkin, an English teacher here at Malden High, co-directed with Sean Walsh and did the choreography of Godspell. They perform musicals in the fall, a student written show in the winter and then another play in the spring. Libkin [says] she “enjoys musical theatre because it involves collaboration with tons of different people and ‘Godspell’ is a very good example of that.” This is Libkin’s first year officially teaching in Play Pro but for the past three years she’s been unofficially participating in the productions. After Godspell was performed on Thursday for the first time, Libkin thinks it was very successful, with a really good crowd and went really smoothly. Libkin says, “it’s a show that’s about love and community and respect. [She thinks] it’s hitting [her] and the students, the audience made it a wonderful experience.” Libkin loves being apart of Play Pro and her background is in theatre, which is what she did before becoming a teacher. Libkin also says, “it’s apart of [her] life and it’s apart of who [she is]. Now getting to inspire [the] students just makes [her] very happy.”
Head of Tech Department, Allen Phelps, described the first performance a “testament to the hard work that many of the new students have put in.” Phelps says that this year’s group of students has been “one of the most hardworking” in the years since Phelps and Sean Walsh began collaborating. A problem with the stage and set as a whole is that the “space is not meant for theatre.” Phelps notes the difficulty of creating an effective lighting design because the only place to hang lights is the balcony. Lighting is also something that can be difficult. “[Thursday] [there were] 300 people,” but the amount of people in the auditorium affects the sound and how it is carried throughout. Besides tech-aspects of the performance, Phelps notes that Thursday was the third time that the cast sang with the band. Singing with the band is an “adjustment,” says Phelps. The whole message of the musical was about community, and that attracted church organizations and other community members in Malden. Godspell, cites Phelps, “is usually done with 12 people and a much bigger setting”. Godspell, performed with many more than 12 people, it obviously larger cast-wise, though the set is smaller.
Sean Walsh, an English teacher at the MHS, is the producer/director where he works on a variety of things like publicity, tickets, finances, making sure the music director, band director, the choreographer and the tech director are all on the “same page.” The musical Godspell is the 7th musical the Play Pro team has done together. It is Walsh’s 11th year being apart of Play Pro and has enjoyed every year and how it’s different. Walsh notes that the “large class this year, [and] relatively new students and are enthusiastically taking new opportunities.” Walsh wants to “encourage people who are self starters, risk takers, people who are able to manage their schedules, to join Play Pro and anyone else interested in costume, lights, set, singing, acting or dancing.”
Todd Cole, a music teacher here at MHS, worked on coaching the students when singing, specifically if singing solo. Normally, Cole would direct the music however this year decided to leave it up to Erin O’brien Mazza, MHS band director. Cole says that “this [was] the first show [he’s] ever gotten to stand back and watch it happen because [he’s] usually in the pit conducting the music so [he doesn’t] usually enjoy the performances.” Cole has been here for 14 years and has done seven musicals with Sean Walsh. Some of the musicals from the previous years include Blood Brothers, Shrek, Oklahoma, Working and much more. They love to work on a variety of different types of musicals and Cole doesn’t have a favorite but that Shrek was probably the hardest one. Godspell was successful in Cole’s opinion because for this particular play he says, “it’s a musical you can do on a really small scale, you can get just 10 people or have really talented singers and less talented singers and still pull it off. Watching last night’s show they definitely bumped the bar off on Godspell, when you saw it, you saw what Godspell can really be if you really put a lot into it.”