Godspell Jr.

E.J. Dohring, left, portrays Jesus and Bransen Gates is Judas in Spotlight Youth Theatre’s “Godspell Jr.”

Submitted photo

Spotlight Youth Theatre’s artistic director Kenny Grossman mounted “Godspell Jr.” several seasons ago at a Phoenix charter school.

The musical, which opens Friday in Glendale, has always been a favorite of Grossman, even though he has Jewish heritage.

“Many people think it’s about religion, but it’s not,” Grossman said. “This show is about love, loyalty, trust, friendship and becoming better people.”

In addition, Grossman said the Stephen Schwartz musical has a mix of catchy songs, along with comedy and drama, as well as some very inspirational moments.

“Godspell” first opened off Broadway in 1971, then moved to Broadway in 1976 and was nominated for one Tony Award. Many productions of the show followed, with national tours as well as versions from a number of regional and community theaters.

In 2011, the musical returned to Broadway with a new, modernized revival.

Popular songs include “Day by Day,” “Learn Your Lessons Well,” “All Good Gifts,” “By My Side” and “Beautiful City.”

The play follows several “disciples” as Jesus guides them through life lessons and parables, many funny and others not so much.

Grossman said he thought the timing was right to re-mount “Godspell Jr.” at Spotlight. This version is a shortened production of the show, but he added a couple of songs from the full-length version.

“The beauty of ‘Godspell’ is that the director and cast interpret this piece so many ways,” he said. “I’ve seen the show take place in a coffee shop and other places, but we chose to set it in a vacant lot near some abandoned buildings.”

More dance numbers have been added to Spotlight’s production, as well.

“It’s not considered a dance show, but we went the extra mile,” said Amanda Paige, choreographer of the show. “Each number has its own unique style and something different, almost like a concert feel.”

Paige said she’s proud of the cast, ranging in age from 11 to 16, and how quickly they picked up the choreography and adapted to the styles.

“They’ve really stepped up their game and really outdid themselves,” Paige said.

The kids also kept up with the fast-paced vaudeville style of the musical, which includes some improvisation.

“They really found themselves in this show, and I’m really proud of that,” Grossman said. “I can’t wait for people to see what they’ve done.”

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