Methuen High’s theater group, Stage Door 22, presented an updated version of the rock musical “Godspell” on April 4-6 at the MHS Arthur Nicholson III Auditorium. It was a true ensemble show with each actor given the chance to shine with popular numbers composed by Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked,” “Pippin,” “Children of Eden”) based in part on traditional hymns. Songs like “Day by Day,” “Prepare Ye,” “Turn Back Oh Man” and “We Beseech Thee” had audiences singing along.

“Godspell” is a contemporary retelling of the Gospel of Matthew using parables and songs to promote the potential for diverse individuals to come together to create a community of love, respect, kindness and understanding. Though it first came to the stage in 1971, over 50 years later, the message still resonates.

To demonstrate that community is available to anyone, the musical employs the unique tactic of having the cast use their own names and personality traits with the exception of Jesus (played here by Calysa Alba) and Judas (the multi-talented Alejandro Roche). Wherever the show is performed, the story is in many ways specific to the people in the cast.

Director Joanie Walsh noted, “I’ve directed ‘Godspell’ a few times and it’s always different and unique depending upon the cast. For many of our cast members, it was their first musical so some of the rehearsals and learning the music was tough. But in the end, they really pulled together and did a great job.”

Senior Alba, who portrayed Jesus, has been part of the troupe since 2021, taking on roles first as actor and then switching to stage manager before returning to her first love – acting – for her final performance. To build the Jesus character at the end of His life, she pulled upon the wistful experience of the end of the high school phase of her life that combines emotions of sadness and maybe fear about leaving, with the excitement and hope of new beginnings.

Walsh observed that, “Calysa’s performance on Saturday night was amazing. Calysa is one of our graduating seniors and president of our club. I think she took all of that nostalgic, senior-year emotion and used it brilliantly as she portrayed the final moments of Jesus’ life. The cast in turn responded to it. It was as if they were really saying goodbye to their leader and friend, and it just felt so raw and authentic. I was really proud of them all for that one!”

To play it forward and spread love of community and theater, a portion of the show’s proceeds benefited the Alyssa J. Fluet Memorial Scholarship that supports students of theater at Methuen High School and Salem State College in memory of its namesake and Stage Door 22 alum.

In addition to Alba and Roche, the cast consisted of The Community, made up of Principal Players Matthew Antunes, Doro Cesar, Fabian Montanez Crespo, Jacey Cripps, Yah Obenge, Mackenzie Piantigini, Alex Ramos and Olivia Wells; and Supporting Players Malakai Denault, Pine Dorante, Jarelyn Flores, Jacqueline Mastro and Katie Merino.