There is one scene, however, where the music has been pared back.
“The biggest difference is the prologue — now it’s a cappella,” Sendlbeck said. “That’s been one of the most challenging pieces of the work.”
The prologue introduces the people who will become Jesus’ disciples, when they are first inspired by his example and acknowledge each other as members of a group.
“It starts off as people in the world who aren’t able to communicate with each other, who aren’t able to deal with the world,” Sendlbeck said. “They’re able to find a community among themselves and understanding for one another.”
Singing a cappella, with no support from musical instruments, is a fitting expression of that group dynamic, Sendlbeck said.
“It represents how music really unifies us,” she said. “Having no (accompanying) music is significant. There’s no connection between these people when they form a group and make music together. They each sing a solo in the prologue and also have to be background music. They have to do that eight times. You have to listen to each other.”
Sendlbeck’s choreography also addresses the group’s developing sense of community — and initial lack of the same.
“The most popular number is ‘Day by Day,’ the very first song,” she said. “What I did with that, where the cast is dancing together — since they just came together, why would they do the same thing? So, I took the ‘Macarena’ and the ‘Electric Slide,’ and pieced it together.”
While Schwartz’s revisions have given the play some polish, it started out as a drama school project, and Sendlbeck’s choreography honors that original spirit.
“It’s not ‘42nd Street’ with big numbers,” she said. “It’s organic and raw and comes from the cast in the moment. I want it to look polished and clean but also make it look like it comes from them.”