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Beloved musical to make silver-anniversary appearance on Bethel stage

April 16th, 2018

by Sam Bertholf

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – This year’s Fall Festival musical is celebrating a silver anniversary – 25 years since it was last performed on the Bethel College campus.

Bethel music and theater departments will present Godspell, based on the New Testament Gospel of Matthew.

Originally conceived by John-Michael Tebelak, the version that debuted off Broadway in 1971 has music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Its best-known song is “Day by Day,” which reached #13 on the Billboard pop singles chart in 1972.

Bethel’s Godspell will take place Oct. 13, 14 and 15 in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center on campus. The Friday show is at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at Thresher Shop in Schultz Student Center during regular business hours, Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-5 p.m., or at the door a minimum of one hour before showtime (subject to availability). Ticket prices vary, and Bethel students get in free for the Sunday performance.

The stage director, John McCabe-Juhnke, Bethel professor of communication arts, said he chose this musical because of its positive theme and its age-appropriateness.

Godspell is a classic, family-friendly musical that seems especially relevant in a time when our culture seems obsessed with an us-versus-them mentality,” he said.

“The message in Godspell, which is a retelling of the life and teachings of Jesus, reminds us of the enduring truth that we are better, stronger and more loving people when we listen to one another in community rather than shout at one another across ideological divisions.”

This is not the first time Godspell has been performed at Bethel.

It was staged in 1992, making this the 25-year anniversary of its first appearance at the college – or, as McCabe-Juhnke says, “the silver-anniversary celebration of Godspell on our campus.”

A unique aspect of the published script for Godspell is that it suggests that the characters, aside from Jesus and John the Baptist/Judas, all be named after the actor in the role. That tradition will be continued in Bethel’s production.

Kate Jolliff, senior from Newton, plays Kate (Peggy in the original script). She said Godspell is a show that presents a number of challenges.

Godspell is kind of a difficult show to put on,” she said, “just because all of us are on stage all of the time and it is very heavy in choreography and blocking. I am very excited to see it all come together.”

The cast has been logging some serious hours to get prepared. Jolliff continued, “The cast is great and we have been working a minimum of six days a week to put on the best show that we can.”

Connick Roe, junior from Kingman, plays Connick (originally Jeffrey). He said he is excited for the crowd to witness the play’s unique take on some of the more well-known Bible stories.

“I am looking forward to putting on Godspell because of the comedic elements and the spin it taken on classic Bible stories,” he said.

In addition to Jolliff and Roe, the cast of Godspell is Kendrick Weaver, sophomore from Hesston, as Jesus; recent Bethel graduate Will Shook-Shoup, Newton, as John the Baptist/Judas; Nathan Kroeker, junior from Augusta, as Nate (Herb); Lauren Nehrbass, sophomore from Parsons, as Lauren (Robin); Madison Hofer-Holdeman, sophomore from Wichita, as Madison (Joanne); Polly Carlson, sophomore from Freeman, South Dakota, as Polly (Sonia); and Addie Regier, freshman from Newton, as Addie (Gilmer).

Scenic designer and technical director is Damon Klassen, Bethel instructor of theater, and music director is Adam Fontana, Bethel director of instrumental music. Rehearsal accompanist is Rich Toevs.

Danika Bielek, former director of Bethel College Academy of Performing Arts, is the choreographer, with assistant choreographer Paige Kliewer-McClellan.

Stage manager is Abby Phillips, senior from Maple Hill, and assistant stage manager and lightboard operator is Anna Wiens, sophomore from Goessel. Soundboard operators are Jesse Balzer, freshman from Hurley, South Dakota, and Matthew Garber, sophomore from Newton.

For a complete Fall Festival 2017 schedule, see, or call 316-284-5251 for more information.

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in Washington Monthly’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges 2017-18 and in the analysis of top colleges and universities for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.