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Theater group, S. Hall church team up for Easter
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Members of Fifth Row Center rehearse for this weekend’s performance of “Godspell” at The Springs Church in Flowery Branch.

Sardis Enrichment School

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‘Godspell’
Based on the gospel of Matthew, the play is a reflection on the life of Jesus, with a message of kindness and love
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. April 9 and 3:30 p.m. April 10.
Where: The Springs Church, 6553 Spout Springs Road, Flowery Branch
How much: Free for performances this weekend and $7 per person for the other performances.

FLOWERY BRANCH — While many local churches are preparing for their Easter services this weekend with messages about Jesus’s resurrection, The Springs Church in Flowery Branch will offer a slightly new presentation of the traditional message.

The church has teamed with Fifth Row Center, a community theater based in South Hall, to present the musical "Godspell" as some of its Easter services.

"There’s a huge number of people who’ve been hurt by church, so the idea here is to provide something different that still speaks to people," said Rick Goodspeed, pastor of The Springs Church. "The whole message of ‘Godspell’ is the story of Easter ... and it comes across as non-threatening."

The church will still have a traditional Easter service at 9 a.m. Sunday, but the 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. services that day will be performances of "Godspell."

"We just want people to see God’s love in a different way," Goodspeed said.

Donna Chalmers, the production’s director, said she was thrilled when Goodspeed came to her about doing something a little different for Easter weekend.

"I’ve been a fan of ‘Godspell’ since the ’70s when I was a teenager, and I’ve always looked for an opportunity to do it, either directing it or acting in it. So when the pastor of The Springs Church asked me to do a show for their Easter service, this was the first one I thought of," Chalmers said. "It has a fantastic message and everyone will thoroughly love it, whether on a spiritual level or an entertainment level."

The play features parables from the gospel of Matthew in the Bible, but that’s just the beginning, Chalmers said.

"It’s a completely unique retelling of the gospel of Matthew in music, but also in dialogue. And it uses a lot of theatrical devices — mime, puppetry, vaudeville and singing and dancing, of course," she said.

But Chalmers admitted one of her favorite parts of the production is its music.

"It’s written by the composer of ‘Wicked,’ Stephen Schwartz. If you like ‘Wicked’ or ‘Pippen’ ... you’ll love ‘Godspell.’ And even if you don’t know any of that music, you’ll still love it," she said.

The production’s cast, which features both seasoned theatrical veterans and novice performers, has been working since February on the performance. They have worked with a choreographer on the dance steps, practiced the songs and worked on their dialogue in rehearsals three to five times each week to prepare for "Godspell."

"This is the best cast. Everybody is so much fun — they’re enthusiastic about the material, they give it 110 percent and they are so incredibly talented," Chalmers said. "Some of them have never been on the stage before and they’ve picked it up like they’ve been on the stage their whole lives."

Whether audience members are regular theater attendees or have never seen a play before, Chalmers said anyone can enjoy "Godspell."

"We have lots of people who don’t normally like to attend theatrical performances — especially guys — and they’ll come up to me afterwards and say, ‘This is the first play I’ve attended … and I love this play,’" she said.

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