Three nights a week, spirited voices swell the sanctuary of a church off Highway 100, up a curving hill on South Point Road. That’s where the Presbyterian Church of Washington is located and where longtime East Central College Theater Director John Anglin is applying his expertise as a plucky troupe of actors rehearse for “Godspell,” which will open at the church this month.
Anglin, having directed 110 ECC shows before and after his retirement, is doing what he relishes, launching a musical with broad appeal that’s fitting for the soulful season of Lent. It’s especially fulfilling to stage the show in the church where he’s a member.
Opening on Broadway in 1976, “Godspell” was conceived and originally directed by John-Michael Tebelak, with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. And what music the show features — “God Save the People,” “All Good Gifts” and the plaintive “Day by Day,” among other numbers.
Playful but with an overture of seriousness, “Godspell” will make you stop and think about the way you’re living your life as it presents renditions of Jesus’ teachings, using creative means like puppetry, pantomime and “play within a play” scenes to relate parables from the Gospel of Matthew.
Talented Cast and Crew
The cast of 10 is a cross-section of people from all walks of life — a good number of them previously seen in ECC productions, Anglin said. At a recent rehearsal I enjoyed meeting them, their exuberance for the show contagious.
Jesus is being played by C.J. Satterfield; his dad, Jeff Satterfield, is a veteran of ECC productions. In the Army in Germany, Jeff was Jesus in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
“Music runs in my family,” C.J. said, obviously proud to share the passion. You might have seen C.J. at Jimmy John’s, where he works as manager, a job he really enjoys.
Andrew Wanager, no stranger to ECC productions, is a special ed paraprofessional with the Union School District. He has dual roles in “Godspell,” as John the Baptist and Judas. Wanager loves comedy, especially improv, and there’s ample room for ad-lib in “Godspell,” creative touches that Anglin encourages, trusting the actors’ shoot-from-the hip ideas.
The other jokester in “Godspell” is Noah Sprick, 18, the youngest cast member. He’s been in shows at Pacific High School, and has always been a class clown, he said. As Herb, he’s sure to keep the audience laughing. There’s another Sprick in the show too, Jared, who is Noah’s brother, and is Jeffrey on stage.
For Shanee Haynes, “Godspell” has been a fun experience and definitely worth the night drives she makes to get home to Ballwin. Haynes has been employed at East Central for five years, as a communications instructor. No matter how tired she is after teaching, the show peps her up when she steps on the stage as Robin, “the cast members becoming like family,” Haynes said.
The Music and the Moves
Caitlin von Seckendorff is the rehearsal and performance pianist. Von Seckendorff wears a number of hats, actually juggles five music-related jobs, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with Anglin because she’d heard so much about him, she said.
Rebecca Brinker, Peggy in the show, also makes her living tunefully, as a music teacher in Webster, where she’s taught for 16 years. A graduate of St. Francis Borgia Regional High School, Brinker says she’s loving “the small, super-talented cast,” and their dedication.
The show’s musical director Wendy Dugger manages Brown Shoe Center. She said “Godspell” is a “blast,” offering her the chance to feed her love of music by playing Sonia, in which she delivers quite a punch, vamping it up in, “Turn Back Old Man.”
Back working with John on choreography, and in the role of Gilmer, is Bethany Herron, seen at ECC last summer in “The Marvelous Wonderettes: Dream On.” “ ‘Godspell’ is a fun show with a lot of joy,” Herron said, stressing it features a smorgasbord of different kinds of music.
The show offers Herron the opportunity to reunite behind the lights with Elin Feldmann, also a Wonderette, this time portraying Joanne. “Godspell” is Feldmann’s dream come true, the first show she ever acted in when she was a student at Washington Middle School.
Rounding out the cast is Alex Gansmann, a current music student at ECC — graduating in May. He’s also a cantor with the Archdiocese and works at Pickney Bend in New Haven. Gansmann is Lamar in “Godspell”; he said being in the show is “insightful” because he’s coming away with a better “understanding of the Parables.”
This varied and clever cast, busy with day jobs and families, are working hard, with Anglin at their helm, to finalize a show to remember — theater for the love of it — which in Anglin’s seasoned hands is sure to debut with a flair of professionalism that many have grown to expect.
We’re in for a treat; see you there.
Tickets are on sale now for “Godspell” which opens Thursday, Feb. 22, at the Presbyterian Church of Washington for a three-night run at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by calling 636-239-3178.