‘Godspell’ takes on refugee setting at Glendale Centre Theatre

‘Godspell’ takes on refugee setting at Glendale Centre Theatre
Tyler Hodges, portraying Jesus, performs with fellow cast members in the parable "Don't throw your pearls to the pigs" in the musical "Godspell" at the Glendale Centre Theatre. (Courtesy of Dennis Stover)

The musical "Godspell," being presented at the Glendale Centre Theatre, has a special place in the heart of its director, Zoe Bright.

She played a disciple in a production on London's West End in 1973 that went on to a national tour. It was directed by one of the show's creators, the late John-Michael Tebelak, with assistance from the show's composer Stephen Schwartz.


Her character sang "By My Side."

The show is a musical retelling of the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible, and productions are often set in unique locations onstage. Bright has set the local production in a refugee camp.

"I thought it was very pertinent to what's going on today," Bright said. "And we really flew with it. And the guys in the shop were great with the graffiti and all that."

As part of the scenery, there is a sign that reads "M 25:35-40," which stands for a passage in the Book of Matthew that begins "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink ..."

Bright is no stranger to the local theater. She most recently directed "The Importance of the Being Earnest," and she played the role of Lady Bracknell in the production.

Tyler Hodges plays Jesus in "Godspell" and talked about his most moving part of the show.

"It has to be the moment when I'm saying goodbye to all my disciples, after Judas has left, and I've made it clear that he's betrayed me," Hodges said.

"And everyone knows that I'm going somewhere that they can't go with me. ... I have a moment with everyone in the cast [individually] that sort of ties together moments that we've had previously in the show," he added.

While Bright, who lives in Glendale, tried to bring in elements of the past production she was involved with, she and the cast worked to meld a combination of past and present, British and American.

Hodges said it ultimately became a work in tandem.

"There has to be a certain amount of pop culture references that make it contemporary. So a lot of the things she was bringing from her cast were things that we had no idea what they were at all," Hodges said, with a chuckle. "But we found a nice common ground."

The refugee theme does come in at times during the performances, not just in the scenery, such as in the Vaudeville-style song "All for the Best."

"Like the hats [for that number], I gave them all pans and colanders, something that would have been in the refugee camp," Bright said.

"Godspell" runs concurrently with the theater's other production, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," another musical with a biblical story, which has mostly weekend performances and select Thursday shows through April 7.

"Godspell" will be presented Sunday through Wednesday through March 25.

For more information about either musical, call (818) 244-8481 or visit

Twitter: @lamarkkellam