By Kristen Miller
DASSEL-COKATO, MN Rehearsals are well underway for this year’s high school fall musical of “Godspell” that is expected to be both musically and visually appealing for audiences of all ages.
What began on Broadway 40 years ago, “Godspell” has proven to withstand the test of time.
Based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, “Godspell” tells the parables told by Jesus by utilizing clowning, pantomime, charades, and vaudeville acted out with an 11-member cast.
Though not a literal interpretation of scripture, the musical maintains the integrity of it. Kampa considers it to be a lot like “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
“There is a child-like innocence and energy about the show,” said director Bob Kampa, who played the part of John the Baptist in “Godspell” in 1979.
This was the first musical the director acted in. “It holds a special place in my theatrical career,” Kampa said.
The music and new lyrics used in the production are by the well-known Broadway composer Steven Schwartz, who is best known for his most recent musical, “Wicked,” as well as many Disney soundtracks.
The music from the production became so popular that it crossed over to mainstream music. The song “Day by Day” reached number 13 on the Billboard pop singles chart in the year following the musical’s debut.
“Godspell” is Kampa’s first production to direct in Dassel-Cokato, but he has directed more than 40 community, high school, and university plays throughout the years.
Kampa has a degree in speech and theatre, but has spent the last 20 years commuting to the Twin Cities for a job in educational assessment, leaving him little time to direct on the side.
He recently made a career change and is working as a chemical dependency counselor for New Beginnings, which has allowed him to work with students after school and reconnect with his “theatre roots.”
The past three years, Kampa has been able to return to the stage. Some might remember him as Pharaoh in Dassel-Cokato Community Theatre’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in 2010.
His wife, Patti, is the facilities coordinator at the high school, and they have three sons who were all in theater at Dassel-Cokato.
Kampa chose “Godspell” for several reasons, he said.
The script allowed him to add to the cast if he needed to, which he did to some degree, he said.
“Godspell” also has a lot of dance incorporated in it and he wanted to give student actors the experience of doing choreography.
It’s also a very high-energy show with up-tempo music, a lot of movement, and a 60s/70s flare to it.
“It’s a very entertaining show,” Kampa said. “The kids are really loving it.”
Aside from Cody Ewald, who plays Jesus, and Ryan Peterson, who plays both John the Baptist and Judas, the other cast members are part of an ensemble cast and play multiple parts throughout.
The rest of the ensemble cast include Abby Jo Imberg, Alex Cady, Alison Basney, Cicily Savoy, Cody Harmening, Colee Jennissen, Kathryn Mankenberg, Krissy Rootes, and Laura Rostomily.
Members of the crew include Amy Shadis, choreography; Patti Kampa, production assistant; Phil Haataja, set design, Brian Veith, pit director; Michael Lajko, vocal director; and Ron Hungerford, lights/sound.
Kampa has enjoyed seeing the “creative spark ignite” in the students and watching them take more chances as actors.
“This show is really conducive to that. It gives a lot of opportunity for individual interpretation and expression,” he said.
Performance dates are Friday, Nov. 11; Saturday, Nov. 12; Friday, Nov. 18; and Saturday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m.; and a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, Nov. 20.
Tickets are expected to go on sale the last week of October and can be purchased through the high school activities office, $6 for adults and $4 youth (all ages).
In an effort to generate more interest in this year’s fall musical production, the cast will be selling “Godspell” bracelets that have a significant connection to the show’s performance.
Bracelets are $2 and all proceeds will go toward the drama program. For more information, contact the activities office.