Ellsworth High School’s Theatre of the Mad Jesters opens its production of the musical “Godspell” this weekend. The cast includes Kjell Vikberg, (Back row, from left) Maddie Henry, Noe Burmeister, Destinee Alexis-Miller, Mark Berry, Mark Fuller, Kayla Hardison, Beckett Markosian, Cody Harper, Makayla Fishburn, Warren Dowling and Tyler Davis. In the front row (from left) are: Audrey Goodwin-Whitmore, Raiya Vikberg, Amelia Hayden, Grace High, Aurora Haslam, Taylor Richardson, Seneca Maddocks-Wilbur and Emma Henry. NAN LINCOLN PHOTO

EHS opens high-energy “Godspell” this weekend

ELLSWORTH — Another member of Rebecca Wright’s family has joined the Ellsworth High School Theater team, which is in the final week of rehearsing “Godspell.” The pop musical opens Friday, Nov. 30.

Cameron Wright, Rebecca’s son who works as an actor in the Portland area, is taking over as director of the fall musical while his sister Jasmine Ireland continues to be in charge of the choreography and now costume design. She assumed the latter duty from her mom, who is EHS’s assistant principal.

At a recent rehearsal it was apparent that not only do the siblings work well together, but that they each bring a different method or dynamic.

While Jasmine’s direction is typically almost a show in itself as she bounds onto the stage to demonstrate a movement, with much commentary, her brother tends to be more of a quiet presence. He studies the situation, and takes notes before quietly joining the choreographer on stage to confer with her or a student.

Cameron Wright is directing while his sister Jasmine Ireland is choreographing and designing costumes for “Godspell.”

These different approaches are probably a good thing, as two dynamos could prove to be explosive, and two strong silent types might lack the necessary spark to get the cast excited about going over the same routines again and again until they get it right.

While this is Cameron’s first time directing, he has performed in “Godspell” several times and says he has a special fondness for the show, especially this 2012 revival, which brought the 1970s music and book, based largely on the gospels of Luke, into the 21st century.

“We’ve set it at a rock concert,” says Cameron, “and aside from the characters of Jesus and Judas, the cast will essentially be playing themselves — only more enhanced versions of themselves.” This, he says, includes using their real names.

While he acknowledges that not having a distinct character to disappear into is often a more challenging task for young actors than playing themselves, he is confident in his cast’s ability to rise to it.

“I’m encouraging them bring their own personalities to the mix, get them to ask how they would personally respond to the controlled chaos of this show.”

For the most part, he says these kids many of whom are two- or three-year veterans on this stage, have hit the ground running.

He notes the score they have to work with is especially hard, with very dense harmonies, but the largely experienced cast has exceeded his expectations.

Jasmine, too, is excited about the depth of talent she has to work with this year, including first-timer Beckett Markosian, who will portray Jesus.

“I haven’t done this show since 1991, when it was a wildly popular production,” she says, “and I’m so thrilled to be revisiting it. This is such a special show, with so much energy around it.”

This is born out during a highly energized run through of the song “Bless the Lord,” although it is still a bit ragged around the edges — with kids counting the appropriate number of “bless yous” on their fingers. But the electricity is there, even when they run through it for the second and third time.

Another new element to this show is its music director Ian Brennan-Simpson, who has taken over from Colin Graebert, who was wooed away by a full-time position with another high school.

“Ian is still a student,” Jasmine says. “He is just amazing, we are so lucky to have him.” She has also brought on board recent EHS grad Garrett Moyer as stage manager, which adds to the “all in the family” atmosphere of this show.

This was the last rehearsal before Thanksgiving break, so once again they will have to hit the ground running. But this combination of talent, commitment and family dynamic promises a rousing and even uplifting outcome.

“Godspell” opens Friday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. with subsequent evening shows on Dec. 1 and Dec. 6-8 with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday Dec. 2. Tickets cost $10 per adult and $8 for students and seniors. To reserve seats, call 667-4722 or visit EHS’s Music, Art, & Theatre Facebook page and click on “Shop Now” to access the online ticketing system.

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.
Nan Lincoln

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