Musical has 'good stories to share, really good music'

Cary Ashby • Mar 4, 2018 at 8:00 AM

MONROEVILLE — Gunnar Steward remembers his exact reaction to being cast as Jesus in “Godspell.”

“I said, ‘Holy crap. I’m Jesus.’ That’s the first thing I said,” the Monroeville High School sophomore recalled. “I was a little intimidated.”

Steward, 15, hadn’t seen “Godspell,” so he took in a performance at the Harelquins Community Theatre in Sandusky. 

“After I saw it, I sorta enjoyed it. It was difficult for me,” said the son of Tarrelle Steward and Kerry Steward. “My grandmother is really religious, so she filled me in on parts. She had seen (‘Godspell’) before.”

The Monroeville cast is performing “Godspell” at 7 p.m. March 22, 23 and 24. Tickets are $8 and all the seats are assigned. To purchase tickets, call 419-465-2610 ext. 1303.

“I was a little surprised we were doing a religious musical, but it does seem to be a good experience for everyone,” said sophomore Skyler Resor, the stage manager, who watched the 2017 movie version of “Godspell” during class.

“I like how upbeat it was. It had more to do with our daily lives,” added the daughter of Christie Poths. “I really think the music is really good. We are really all in synch.”

There are 15 cast members, who said their energy will be challenged since there are no scene changes.

“Everyone is always on stage. They have to move with a certain flow. They have to ‘be’ the scene,” said director Adam Sampson, who is the Monroeville choir director and elementary music teacher.

Sampson was asked if he had received any push-back from selecting “Godspell” since it’s based on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

“Not at all. No problems,” he said.

The Monroeville production of “Godspell” includes 12 crew members. The co-director is Joe Gaither. There is a rock band-style quartet for the musical, comprised of Sampson on piano, guitarist Nathan Santos, bassist Emily Ebert and drummer Melissa Hartley.

Senior Izzy Ballard plays Sonia, whom she describes as “the sexy, sultry one.”

“I feel like she has a big, fun aspect (to her) — a party animal,” added the daughter of Matt and Nikki Ballard and Matt and Farrah Hales. “I like to have fun.”

Sonia narrates the parable involving a pharisee and tax collector and the parable of the good Samaritan. The second parable includes a reference to the animated movie “Shrek.”

“I teach a lesson on trying to humble yourself,” the bubbly Izzy Ballard said.

Sophomore Donaven Skiver plays two characters — and they couldn’t be any more different, Judas Iscariot and John the Baptist.

“We don’t have a lot of boys (in the cast), so we doubled up. I’m really excited because this is my first time doing two roles,” said the son of Timothy and Crystal Skiver and Wylly and Sarah Yarber. “Judas is the bad guy in the play. Then you have John, who would be helped by Jesus and Judas who wants to kill Jesus.”

Like Gunnar Steward, Donaven Skiver hadn’t heard of “Godspell” before being cast.

“I have a very open mind. And I am religious, so I am looking forward to doing this,” Skiver said.

Looking forward to performing the musical may be an understatement for Ballard, whose natural enthusiasm and energy could hardly be contained during her interview.

“I am super excited because I love ‘Godspell,’” she said. “I think everybody will like it. It’s religious, but it has good stories to share, good lessons to be taught. Really, really good music.”

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