Lancaster Youth Bureau showcases teens in 'Godspell'
An evening of unforgettably fun and spectacular storytelling, you won’t want to miss this group of young adults perform. Their voices will astound you with classic hits such as “Day by Day” and “Turn Back, O Man” and take you on a musical journey through the Gospel of Matthew.
Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Aug. 9, 10, and 11 at the Lancaster Middle School, 148 Aurora St. The show is directed by John Kaczorowski, choreographed by Lynn Scott Dalfonso, music arrangements by Rob Pacillo, and includes roughly 40 talented cast members, ranging in grade levels from eighth up to college, who can’t wait to bring “Godspell” to life.
“We took a very different approach this year,” remarked Kaczorowski. “We come at it at a more genuine approach rather than the ‘Godspell’ that everybody likes to see with the happy dancing. I mean there is certainly a lot of that too, but I feel like our ‘Godspell’ is much more earthy and much more real.”
Kaczorowski added a lot of time has been spent educating the youths about the history of Jesus and the story of Jesus.
“The musical is about the message of Jesus and I think that whether you believe in God or not, the message is beautiful and universal,” remarked Kaczorowski. “It is a storytelling show and it is very much a community show. The audience is probably going to feel like a part of the story based on the way we approached it.”
Even though, there was a decrease in youths trying out for a part in the show this summer, Kaczorowski said he likes having a smaller cast because it is easier to take those moments to explain things and really have it hit home with everybody.
“I always say that your show is only as good as your ensemble is because it is one thing to have really talented people do the leads, but if your ensemble is not tight and not fully present at all times, the show is going to look very amateur,” remarked Kaczorowski. “I think that is one of the strengths of the youth bureau is that we have such talented and willing ensemble members who make what the show is.”
Two of the shows talented leads include Steven Saelzler, who plays Jesus, and Kevin Stevens, who performs as Judas.
Kaczorowski commented that both of their strengths are challenged in the show and they have really stepped up to the plate.
“The roles are stretching both of them in really awesome ways and they have really delivered,” said Kaczorowski
Saelzler, who is a recent graduate of Lancaster High School, will be attending Fredonia College to study musical theater.
“As you can imagine it is a very daunting task to play Jesus,” said Saelzler. “Obviously, there is not one person in the world who doesn’t know who Jesus Christ is. It is very tough, but yet really exciting to do that, especially through song and dance.”
Saelzler has performed in past youth bureau productions and has even taken on roles in his school’s performances, but this is his first big lead in a show.
“What I love about the show is that the music is catchy and so much fun,” remarked Saelzler. “It is not like your typical musical music. It is fun to jam and rock out to because it is more a rock type as opposed to a happy go lucky type and I really like how the first act is really upbeat and then the second act is completely different. It totally shifts tones, but it is really cool to see the story unfold.”
Saelzler received his first small part in a show when he was a sophomore and then every year since, he has been working really hard preparing for parts to audition for and studying. It certainly has paid off because he said every year it has gotten him a bigger role.
“Every year it just keeps getting better,” Saelzler commented. “Hopefully one day I will be able to share my talents with the world. It is my passion. I love it so much.”
Stevens, who also will be attending Fredonia College, will be double majoring in acting and speech and language pathology. Stevens plays John the Baptist, a smaller role, but his main role is Judas, a role Stevens said is very difficult to portray.
“This specific role is ridiculous because it is the first negative character I have ever had to play,” Stevens remarked. “Judas basically is best friends with Jesus and then completely betrays him and gets him killed.”
Stevens started performing in theater in his freshman year at Depew High School.
“I’ve always liked singing and music, but getting into acting and becoming another person and completely becoming that person, feeling what they feel and doing what they do is just so interesting. I love it so much,” said Stevens.
Even though, the role Stevens plays is challenging, it is worth it when the overall message of the show is positive.
“The message of the show is just to love everyone and just to be glad for what you have and be proud of everything that we have here,” commented Stevens.
Stevens added that his goal for the future is to become a speech and language pathologist, mostly focusing on rehabilitating singers, and then at night performing in shows.
“The best of both worlds,” Stevens said.
Lastly, Kaczorowski remarked that the youth bureau is in more need of support now than ever before because of taxes increasing, funding is getting tighter, and cuts maybe a possibility in the future.
“We want to keep the youth bureau going and particularly the theater program because it is so powerful for not just these kids but the community as well,” said Kaczorowski. “We need people to come out and support us.”
Tickets for Godspell are available at the door or can be pre-ordered by calling the youth bureau at 683-4444. Tickets are $9 for adults and $7 for children.