Ethan Hardy Benson stars as “Jesus” in DeSoto Family Theatre's upcoming production of "GODSPELL' which premieres this Friday night at Landers Center Theater stage.

The Gospel according to Jesus Christ which involves the life, death and resurrection of Jesus has never been put into words and pageantry quite like the DeSoto Family Theatre production of "GODSPELL" which premiered this Friday night on the Landers Center Stage and runs again next weekend. 

The phrase "gospel" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word which means “good story."

And what a great, timeless story it is, say the producers and directors of  "GODSPELL." Northwest Mississippi theater Alliance founder and Executive Director Mat Lipscomb emphasized that the script as written emphasizes the actual words spoken by Jesus Christ as recorded from the Four Gospels.

"I've always felt that DFT should do GODSPELL, since the organization's beginning," said the show's co-director Jason Spitzer. "Our mission after all is to do theater that honors God. When you look at the text of GODSPELL, you'll find nothing in there that flies in the face of Scripture."

Other productions have been somewhat controversial in the past. However, they have been staged to critical acclaim.

GODSPELL was the first major musical theatrical offering from three-time Grammy and Academy Award winner Stephen Schwartz.

Yet, DFT is crafting its own special touches on the production.

"If people have a different impression of the piece, I think we can blame specific productions that might've created that impression," Spitzer said. "Our production is fun, but it does not make fun. But it's also reverent, insightful, and moving. I would challenge people to consider that we in the DFT family have spent nearly 20 years building the theater organization's reputation for presenting wholesome family entertainment that honors God. This show is not just extension of that, but the culmination of it. People will not be disappointed."

Spitzer said the lyrics from the songs in the show come directly from the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal.

In his final instruction to his disciples before the ascension, the resurrected Christ tells them to, "go and make disciples of all nations," as recorded in Matthew 28:19.

"What better way for a family theater group to approach the Great Commission than by staging a popular musical that puts the Word of God front and center?" said co-director Jacquelyn Skoog.

"When you hear the title GODSPELL, you probably have certain expectations about what you're going to see," Skoog said. "Let me urge you to start expecting the unexpected. As a team we decided at the outset that it was pertinent this production be a genuine, honest, and accessible telling of the Gospel. When you leave our show, inspired by the contemporary worship style of any number of local churches, we want you to 'go and make disciples of all nations.'"

Skoog said the DFT production is uplifting to her, both personally and professionally.

"On a personal note, the opportunity to co-direct GODSPELL at DeSoto Family Theatre came at a transitional time for me," Skoog said. "I wasn’t sure where my life was headed or what I was going to do next, but amidst all the uncertainty, my faith was being renewed. Bringing this vision to life has been extremely gratifying to me, not only as a director, but also as a Christian. It has shown me how I can bring my faith into the arts, and that the arts can be a tool of discipleship. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with this cast, as well as Jason Spitzer, and explore the Gospel together."

GODSPELL runs June 8-17. Tickets can be purchased through ticketmaster.com or at the Landers Center Box Office. Showtimes are 7 p.m. nightly with 2 p.m. matinees on the weekends. Call 1-800-745-3000 for tickets or visit Ticketmaster.com #GodspellDFT.

Robert Lee Long can be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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