ORIGINALLY WRITTEN SUSAN BALZER
Fifteen Goessel High School youth will perform on the main stage of the country music capital of the world in July.
It’s a big step for the youth from the town with the slogan, “Small town, big heart,” but they have demonstrated they have the big hearts to take it.
Katie Schroeder admits to being a little nervous about performing in an auditorium that seats 6,400 people. That’s more than 21 times bigger than the venue at GHS where the students first performed “Godspell” last November.
But the high school junior’s first response to how she felt about the opportunity to perform in Nashville was that she is “really excited.”
Planners for the Nashville 2001 Mennonite Church USA convention invited the Goessel troupe to give three productions of the rock musical July 3-5. The musical will be one of the late-night activities for youth and adults at the convention that is expected to draw more than 6,000 youth, plus adults and children, from across the country.
The Goessel cast includes students from the Mennonite Youth Fellowship groups from three congregations.
Nick Schroeder, Kenton Nickel, Jeff Franzen, Sara Ratzlaff, Ben Schmidt and Tara Goerzen are from the Tabor Mennonite Church MYF.
Jeremy Miller, Melinda Stucky and Katherine Krehbiel represent Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church.
Bethany Amstutz, Zac Church and Ami and Vaughn Miller attend Hesston Inter-Mennonite Fellowship.
Actor Ryan Glendenning, a Baptist church member, will be “adopted” into the Mennonite youth groups to take part in the convention.
Nick Schroeder plays the part of Jesus. The other cast members take interchangeable roles such as those of Jesus’s disciples, John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene.
High school music teacher Greg Bontrager directs the musical. Bontrager and his wife, Melody, who plays piano for the production, are members of Whitestone Mennonite Church, Hesston, and will be attending the convention with their three young children.
Additional band members are GHS students Peter Goerzen, bass, and Ben Goering, trap set; Dave Baker, a recent Bethel College graduate, guitar, and Marcia Brubaker, keyboard.
Bobby Church, director of technical ministries at Hesston Inter-Mennonite Fellowship, will be the technical director at Nashville. He and his wife, Ruth Ann, will also serve as sponsors for the Inter-Mennonite Fellowship youth.
Maynard Knepp and Carol Duerksen are serving as Tabor youth sponsors and Chad and Kari Lindeman and Delton and Janice Voth are Alexanderwohl MYF sponsors.
Bontrager called the student cast “incredibly spectacular” and at their musical revue at Hesston Inter-Mennonite Fellowship April 22, the students lived up to his description, performing with both musical and physical agility.
Katie Schroeder said cast members are frequently reminded of the lines from “Godspell” when they see each other. The biblical parables they’ve heard in church have taken on new meaning since they have brought them to life on stage.
Cast members testified that they have grown closer to each other and to Christ as they have worked on the musical.
Their concern now is how their audiences react. They want the Christian message to come through to those who are listening.
“God has blessed us,” Ami Miller said.
The community will have two opportunities to see “Godspell” before the students go to Nashville. Students will perform the full production at Goessel High School on June 26 and 27.
Both performances will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are available through the high school for $8 for reserved seating and $6 general admission. The money will be used to cover expenses for the show at Nashville.
To order tickets before June 8, call the school at 620-367-2242 between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Make checks payable to “GHS Godspell.” Tickets can then be picked up at the school, or they will be mailed if payment is received with a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
After June 8, call Denise Nickel at 620-367-2226. If necessary, leave complete information on the answering machine and Nickel will return the phone call to confirm the tickets. Tickets must be paid for and picked up by June 25 or they will be sold.