Arts and Entertainment

The Kitsap Forest Theater gets religion with 'Godspell'

'Godspell' opens at the Kitsap Forest Theater July 30.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

A musical performance will liven up the forest off the Seabeck Highway this weekend.

“Godspell,” written by Stephen Schwartz, uses modern music with lyrics from traditional hymns to bring the Book of Matthew to life.

The play will be performed in the Kitsap Forest Theater starting July 31 and director Peggy Whelan said the set is unique to the venue.

“Godspell is the perfect play for this stage,” Whelan said.

The setting of the play is an unkept inner-city park; the props crew used garbage found on the side of the road and in trash piles to create the atmosphere, Whelan said. Tires, pieces of chain link fence, “Do not disturb signs,” and a swing set are strewn about the stage, which is situated in an old growth forest near Seabeck.

The theater itself creates its own special set of challenges for Whelan. She has directed “Godspell” in the past, but issues like having no lighting prove to be difficult, because she has no control over it.

The play begins as Jesus attempts to complete the laws prophets like Socrates have set in place. It progresses with songs such as “Day by Day,” which highlight the teachings of Jesus.

“This is a pretty challenging production,” said Daniel Kluth, who portrays Jesus. “It demands so much more energy than other shows.”

When Kluth was first approached about doing a show he was hesitant, he said. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to fit rehearsals into his schedule, as he works a couple part-time jobs and writes, but the venue and the play’s story swayed him to the stage.

“This was worth the time,” Kluth said. “(The Forest Theater) is one of the best kept secrets in Kitsap County.”

To accompany the play’s lyrics, a band will play on stage with the cast. This marks the first time in almost 30 years a show has been accompanied by a band at the Forest Theater. A roof was built specifically for the band in case of inclement weather.

“Directing a band is something new to me, but I always love a new challenge,” band director Olivia Hickerson said.

This is the first time Hickerson has directed a band. The band consists of a drummer Stephanie Young, guitarist Rupert Kettle, bass guitarist Kelvin Mason and Hickerson on keboard.

The band practices in her living room because it would be difficult to bring them out to the Forest Theater every practice.

Hickerson’s living room is big enough to hold the band and it has been fun playing there, she said.

“My daughter goes through the house singing along to the music now,” Hickerson said.

The cast and band rehearsed together for the first time on Saturday, July 24. The four-piece band in this version of “Godspell” is larger than usual for the production.

This is Whelan’s first time directing at the Forest Theater, but she has directed “Godspell” before.

The music will sync with the constantly changing scenes of the play, of which there are many. From tap dance to burlesque and classical, Hickerson said the wide range of music fits in well with the pace and tone of the play.

“The play is suited very well for a band,” Hickerson said.

Performances at the Forest Theater are put together by The Mountaineers Players, a subsidiary of the Mountaineers club, every spring and summer. The Mountaineers Players are a nonprofit community theater group, which dates back to 1923.

The last week of rehearsals consisted of minor tweaks, mainly between the band and the cast Kluth said.

“Our director has a real strong vision for the play,” Kluth said. “If you aren’t familiar with ‘Godspell’ you should be.” WU

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