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Viterbo to present “Godspell” starring Jesus as popstar

Hope Regier
Godspell Rehearsals

Prepare ye! The hit 1970’s musical, “Godspell” is hitting the Viterbo Fine Arts Center main stage April 19-21. Directed by conservatory professor Erin Jerozal, “Godspell” tells the story of a group of Jesus Christ’s followers who use hilarious performances and catchy songs to help her tell parables. But here’s the twist: Jesus is a popstar.  


Viterbo’s “Godspell” is what’s referred to in the theatre world as a highly conceptual show, as it is taking a classic script and adding a layer of unexpectedness to the production. In this case, when audiences enter the Main Theatre, they are not seeing a musical, but a concert. Jesus (better known as “J” in this production) is a modern-day pop idol, Judas plays the part of her manager, and Jesus’ followers are fans who won a night on stage with her through an online contest. 


The concert experience is made complete with an opener featuring music theatre major and songwriter Adelaide Young, light up bracelets, back up dancers, intricate costumes, a live band, and a social media campaign. When asked what made her want to take such a unique spin on this classic show, Jerozal replied, “In many ways my thoughts on the show were informed by the space. Knowing that we’ll be performing this in the Main Theatre, which isn’t a traditional space for a show like Godspell, I wanted to explore why. Why would this story unfold in this type of space. Plus, a summer of Taylor, Barbie, Britney, and Beyonce – epic gatherings of joy and girlhood – these influences sort of coalesced into what we’re exploring with this production.”  


Speaking of girlhood, Jesus is played by senior music theatre major Payton Seacrist. When asked about her decision to portray Jesus as a female, Jerozal said, “Godspell was never meant to be a historical portrayal of Jesus. The writers have written on this over the years, as the show is wildly popular and done often. This musical is about the formation of community, centered on the parables from the Gospel of Matthew. But we see the messages of these parables in many other religions, and stories, and teachings – so the script invites us to update references as a way to keep the stories relevant and connected to the community. So, I asked myself, in 2024, who do we both idolize and condemn for their way of community building? Take a look at any Taylor Swift related Instagram comment section. Or Beyonce. Or anything related to the Barbie movie. The level of both idolatry and hate – there was a connection there that felt important to explore.”  


In today’s world, there is a certain idolization that comes along with being a global superstar. People worship celebrities and hold them to extremely high standards, then comes the idea of cancel culture and its own discussion. Born out of the idea of community comes “fandoms,” or groups of people who show special interest in a particular celebrity or pop idol. Taylor Swift (perhaps the most popular songwriter of this time) has her “Swifties,” Beyonce has her “Beyhive,” and, in this case, Jesus has her online community of “J Nation.”  


“[Audiences should] check out the social media links in advance (@thepreparetour). Read the beautiful program note from Beth Anderson, our student Biblical Dramaturg. Lean into the event – whatever that means to you,” said Jerozal. “Godspell” is opening April 19 at 7:30 p.m., April 20 at 2:00 and 7:30 p.m., and April 21 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door, at the Viterbo Box Office, or online. 


 “Are you prepared?” 

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About the Contributors
Braydon Schoeffling
Braydon Schoeffling, Freelance Writer & Photographer
Hey, my name is Braydon Schoeffling! I am a freelance writer and...
Hope Regier
Hope Regier, Photographer
Hi, my name is Hope Regier. I am Lumen’s photographer. My job is to capture highlights for our articles. I am an Art Ed major with a Psychology minor.
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