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Source: Te Pukenga

The honed and harmonious voices of the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art’s production of Godspell are set to have lovers of song and dynamic theatre entirely spellbound.
The 16-strong NASDA ensemble cast is putting the final flourishes on its season, starting on 2 November at the Theatre Royal’s Gloucester room. The season includes four evening shows and two weekend matinées staged in an intimate setting with the audience surrounding a cat-walk stage.
Known as one of the most progressive and innovative musicals in history, Godspell tells the story of a fractured, hostile and disconnected community that finds hope, common ground and understanding by embracing a message of radical love.
The Ara | Te Pūkenga NASDA production is directed by Sara Brodie, with musical direction by Mark W. Dorrell and choreography by James Buchanan.
Brodie says it’s a great finale for the talented class who’ve risen to the challenge of making the show their own, adding contemporary references to the script set in modern times.
“People often think of it as this hippie musical from the 70s but it’s also very topical. Drawn from Bible parables it has a community coming together who are left saying ‘where now and what next’? following Christ’s crucifixion. The truths behind these old stories remain so relevant to our lives right now,” Brodie said.
‘What next?’ is also front of mind for this graduating class who are coming to the end of their three-year Bachelor of Music Theatre programme.
Ruth Bishop, playing Jesus, is heading to Japan over the summer to perform in Ken Hill’s Phantom of the Opera.
She said Godspell was a fun swansong for the class, tackling a range of genres from burlesque to country, folk, rock and vaudeville.
“We’re all having a party on stage and the audience becomes part of that. There’s a lot going on, so it never gets boring – you don’t know what to expect next.”
As well as weaving together direct address, comedy, musicianship and improvisation, the modern fable features pop and rock songs like ‘Day By Day’, ‘All For The Best’, ‘Light of the World’, and ‘Beautiful City’.
Playing Judas, Peta Lynch will take this vocal muscle into work as a high-school voice coach. They said as well as working with an incredible score, collaborating on the script had brought a great energy to the class for their last hurrah.
“It’s a workshop-based piece where the actors play around with what’s there and turn it into something new,” Lynch said. “We’ve brought in current cultural and political references and there’s been a great community vibe in the class coming up with content that makes us laugh.”
With just three male-presenting cast members, being gender-flexible casting Jesus and Judas had been a necessity for the production. It’s something that both leads have considered deeply.
“I think my idea of Jesus exists outside of gender,” Bishop said while acknowledging her strong religious upbringing. “Being just a man doesn’t encapsulate the essence of Jesus, I feel. “An ambiguous entity who just happens to exist resonates more closely with me.”
Lynch, who’d long harboured dreams to play Judas in a production and had studied him closely for Godspell, supported opening up roles to any gender widely – as long as it didn’t impact the character or detract from their journey.
“I’ve always been fascinated by Judas as a character and how people perceive him. Exploring his motivations has been really enjoyable for me,” they said.
While the parables in this vibrant production of Godspell mark the end of a study journey for this NASDA cast, the stories of their careers in musical theatre are just beginning.