The West Liberty University’s Hilltop Players conclude their season with the iconic and inspiring musical, Godspell (2013 version), opening Thursday, April 14 in the Kelly Theatre located in the Hall of Fine Arts on the campus of West Liberty University.

The musical Godspell was first produced in 1971 and therefore has entertained audiences for more than 45 years.  However, the Hilltop Players wanted to do more than just entertain.  “I believe that theatre has the ability to help change the world.  This show, especially this show, wants to be more impactful.  The show is about the building of a community and instructing that community to help the needy,” said Michael Aulick, Associate Professor of Theatre.  “Jesus actual says, in the show, “Whatever you did for the least of these my brother, you did for me” and “You saw me hungry and gave me something to eat.” The theatre program tried to develop a way that the production could have a greater impact than just another version of Godspell.

Aulick reached out to community leaders and asked for advice.  He wanted to know which service groups in the region are in need right now.  “I thought it was important to know what the real needs were in this region.  I didn’t want to guess and be wrong.”  After some debate, two were selected; Wheeling’s YSS Winter Freeze Shelter and the region’s Food Banks.

At that point, Aulick began to create two service campaigns – one to support the Winter Freeze Shelter and one to help restock the region’s Food Banks.  After soliciting the help of the WLU Student Activities Office, a list of needed items was made, and each item was given a point value.  The intention was to get student groups to be part of the campaigns, they even added the incentive of free tickets to see Godspell and recognition on opening night.  Items included things that the organizations mentioned needing and were given a point value based on how important they were and how hard they were to find.  For instance, a 2-person tent is worth 50pts. while a canned food item is worth 1pt.

The Hilltop Players are taking it one step further, really putting their money where their mouth is.  The Box Office is offering a reduced ticket price for anyone who brings in a non-perishable food item as a donation.  The donation drops the person’s cost to the next lowest ticket price, so a $12.50 General Admission ticket will only be $10.  “We are willing to take less money in at the box office.  We don’t want to ask people to make a sacrifice without doing it ourselves as well,” said Aulick.

Godspell was the first major musical from a young Stephen Schwartz, who went on to write such mega hits as Wicked, Pippin. and Children of Eden. It features an eclectic blend of songs ranging from pop to vaudeville, including the iconic “Day By Day”, “Prepare Ye The Way Of The Lord”, and “By My Side”.  The WLU program is producing the Godspell (2012 version) that has updated references and more intricate music.  “The original production was fun, but the music was pretty simple.  This is much more challenging, which is what we wanted for our kids, and they are knocking it out of the park,” said Aulick. “The audience will hear the same songs (with two new ones: “Tower of Babble and “Beautiful City”) they are just even better.

The show has been co-directed by Michael L. Aulick, Associate Professor of Theatre and Dr. Melinda Kreisberg, Associate Professor of Biology and Director of Accreditation and Academic Planning. The two have teamed up with a talented cast that includes: Elijah Boyles as Jesus, Nathan James as John the Baptist/Judas and an ensemble company with Gabrielle Bennett, Elizabeth Conley, Geena Diomedi, Brady Dunn, Alex Franke, Chad Grubb, Brent Kimball, Sarah Lemley, Meaghan Macey, and Amanda Tamplen.

Godspell 2012 runs April 14-16 at 7:30pm and April 17 at 3:00pm. For tickets and information call the box office at (304) 336-8277 or buy tickets online here.

Anyone who wants to make donations to the show should contact Michael Aulick at [email protected]