The American Southwest Theatre Company and NMSU’s Department of Theatre Arts are back yet again. This time, they wrap up their 2022-23 season with an adaptation of John-Michael Tebelak’s “Godspell.” Students with a valid NMSU student ID were able to get in free for a special preview performance on Thursday, April 27, at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts.
“I am always proud of my students and of our faculty and staff,” said director and NMSU theater department head, Wil Kilroy. “We all love what we do, so we are willing to put in the time to create the highest quality production possible. The students in ‘Godspell’ have been extremely dedicated, and I feel they’ve created a wonderful show.”
Kilroy emphasized the fact that putting on a show requires around 120 hours of rehearsal alone. This does not include the time it takes to hold meetings, prepare props and handle ticket sales.
“Godspell” is a musical that was originally based on the book by John-Michael Tebelak and composed by Stephen Schwartz. It tells the story of the Gospel of Matthew dispersed into a series of parables. This musical originally premiered in 1971 in an off-Broadway production, and appeared most recently in 2020 in Bogota, Columbia.
NMSU’s adaptation of this play is the only ASTC performance this season with a religion-based plot. Kilroy expressed how many of the students talked about their faith, and wanted to represent that on stage.
“We work to serve our students the very best we can and when some students talked about their faith and [asked] if there could be some representation of that on stage, this musical was a terrific choice,” Kilroy said. “While the musical features the teachings of Jesus, it is very funny and entertaining for everyone and anyone, and the music is terrific with a live band that really rocks.”
The ASTC adaptation of “Godspell” is a perfect mix of song, comedy and religion, all in just under two hours. Accompanied by a stellar live band throughout, the cast’s vocals will leave audience members with goosebumps and applauding after every song. Shawn Pirkle, who plays the role of Jesus, does a brilliant job of taking the audience through the parables of Jesus.
Those who aren’t knowledgeable about the story of Christ and his disciples will leave the theatre with more knowledge on the story. Kilroy and his cast blend in comedic lines and pop-culture references perfectly without taking away from the actual plot. The audience bounces back and forth between applause and laughter at any given second.
The play also has a somber, yet redeeming ending as it dives into the passion of Jesus. This portion of the musical is filled with deep and impactful acting by Pirkle and Peyton Womble, who plays the role of Judas.
Many audience members at last Thursday’s performance were left with tears in their eyes because of how hard-hitting the final scene was. To say one should make time to attend this performance is an understatement.
“Godspell” runs through Sunday, May 7, with performances on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and a final performance on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts. Tickets are on sale up until each showtime. Discounts are available for seniors, veterans, students and kids under 18.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to New Mexico State University, the NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Kokopelli, or any other organization, committee, group or individual.