Students stage biblical epic

Sunderland University Performing Arts students rehearsing for the musical 'Godspell' with renowned Opera singer Graham Danby.
Sunderland University Performing Arts students rehearsing for the musical 'Godspell' with renowned Opera singer Graham Danby.
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A PERFORMANCE of Biblical proportions will be put on by students later this month.

The University of Sunderland’s performing arts department is staging Stephen Schwartz’s musical Godspell as part of a live project for the course.

Godspell, which is set around a series of parables based on the gospel of Matthew, hit Broadway in May, 1971.

As part of their rehearsals for the three-run show at Sunderland Minster and the Customs House in South Shields, the performers are being put through their paces by one of opera’s biggest names, Graeme Danby, who is an Honorary Professor of Music at the university.

Working alongside Rachel Emms-Hobbins, programme leader for performing arts, Graeme has been helping the second and final year students with their rehearsals for the last 12 weeks

Graeme, who is also principal bass with the English National Opera, said: “Godspell is part of a music enhancement project at the university which Rachel and I have been working together on for two years.

“We have had a great time and are pushing these students as far as they can go. They wanted as much of a West End theatre experience as possible at the start of this project and that’s what we’ve tried to do within the confines of a live project at Sunderland.

“I’ve never performed Godspell, so this has also been a learning curve for me, but I was familiar with the music and seeing its development over the last 12 weeks has been inspiring. It’s a huge ensemble piece, so everyone’s part is as important as the next. I’m incredibly proud of the students.”

Taking on the role of Jesus is 21-year-old Sam Porter, originally from London.

He said: “I admit I am nervous, but looking forward to the shows. Rehearsals have been intense but the support from the staff has been excellent.

“Doing this course has given me confidence that I never knew I had.”

Godspell is at Sunderland Minster, on Monday, January 17, and at the Customs House, South Shields, on Tuesday, January 18 and Wednesday, January 19. All performances start at 7.30pm.

For tickets and information, contact the Customs House box office on 454 1234 or visit www.customshouse.co.uk