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Jefferson Street United Methodist youth present ‘Godspell’

SAM GAUSE/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Trey Hand rehearses his role of Jesus while fellow actors, from left, Mary Redhead, Bailey Thompson, Maggie Kelley, Sidnee Roth, Mabel Redhead and Ty Hite play sheep in the musical “Godspell,” which is being presented this week as a dinner theater at Jefferson Street United Methodist Church by the church’s youth group. The play, which debuted in the early 1970s portrays the life of Jesus Christ based on the Gospel of Matthew. The focus is on Jesus’ teaching of friendship, loyalty and love.

SAM GAUSE/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Trey Hand rehearses his role of Jesus while fellow actors, from left, Mary Redhead, Bailey Thompson, Maggie Kelley, Sidnee Roth, Mabel Redhead and Ty Hite play sheep in the musical “Godspell,” which is being presented this week as a dinner theater at Jefferson Street United Methodist Church by the church’s youth group. The play, which debuted in the early 1970s portrays the life of Jesus Christ based on the Gospel of Matthew. The focus is on Jesus’ teaching of friendship, loyalty and love.

James Coley isn’t worried about betraying his true musical talent from center stage this week.

He doesn’t have to — by his own accounts.

“I can’t sing worth a lick,” said Coley, who is one of 17 Jefferson Street United Methodist Church youth performing in the church’s annual dinner theater.

Coley will be showcasing another type of betrayal on stage, though, as he plays the part of Judas in the musical “Godspell.”

The play, which rose to fame in 1971, recounts a series of Biblical parables based on the Gospel of Matthew. The parable stories are interspersed with modern music set to lyrics from traditional hymns.

“I’m Judas, so I play Jesus’ right-hand man,” said Coley, a junior at Cathedral High School. “But then at the end, there is a scene where I literally throw him around, and I’m a part of putting him on the cross. It’s very emotional.”

Coley said he and his fellow cast members have worked hard to make the play a success.

“It’s going to be a great play,” he said. “You’re going to see people who can sing, people who can’t sing — like me — and you might get a good laugh.”

John Hudson, director of this year’s dinner theater, said the cast has been working hard to produce an exceptional show.

“This is something that takes a lot of work, and this year we have more choreography than ever before,” Hudson said.

One of the humorous details of the play, Hudson said, is everything is put into a modern context.

“For instance, when the Good Samaritan goes to the inn, he goes to the Holiday Inn,” Hudson said.

And while the majority of the play boasts a playful tone, Hudson said the last 10 minutes end on a more somber note.

“It changes at the drop of a dime,” he said.

While youth practiced their lines Wednesday in the church’s family life center — which is where the production will be hosted — Hudson said he was impressed with how far cast members have come since day one of practice.

Trey Hand, who will portray Jesus in the play, said this year’s dinner theater would be especially meaningful.

“In these past few weeks, it’s really started to turn out to be something worth seeing,” Hand said. “I can probably recite every parable word-by-word now from doing this play.”

Hand, 18, has been participating in the youth group’s annual theater productions since seventh grade. His mother, April Hand, said it’s something Trey looks forward to doing every year.

“This is Trey’s last year, so it’s pretty significant,” said April, adding that Trey is also the president of the Jefferson Street United Methodist youth group and leads the youth praise band. “The kids who participate in this, they have to be dedicated and have great time management because it is a lot of work.”

The play will open at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 22. The following Thursday and Saturday, the production will begin at 6:30 p.m. A 12:30 p.m. matinee will be Sunday, April 26.

Tickets will be available at the door and the cost is $17 for adults, $14 for children ages 10 to 18 and $5 for children under age 10. Dinner will be served along with dessert and coffee.

The family life center is located next to Jefferson Street United Methodist Church, 511 Jefferson St.

Other cast members include Maggie Kelley, Bailey Thompson, Logan Young, Jordan Waller, Anna Rodriguez, Colby Passman, Ty Hite, Mabel Redhead, Cedric Dunbar, Abigail Hand, Sidnee Roth, Mary Redhead, Billy Thayer, Cay Cay Heatherly and Preston Bradshaw.