The 12 – A Different Goodspeed Musical – by Stuart Brown

The musical The 12, currently playing at the Goodspeed Opera House through October 29, is a very different show that audience members have come to expect from the venerable regional theater. The show, a new production, is not a comedy, but a serious, dramatic musical presentation that centers around the 12 Apostles of Christ and their reactions and actions after his death. “There is part of our audience that wants serious, more in-depth material,” according to Dan McMahon, Director of Marketing at the theater. “This is a show that addresses that segment while at the same time helping us appeal to new audiences.”

The musical had a previous incarnation in Spring 2015 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, where the emphasis was more as a song cycle as opposed to a book musical. The libretto, by Robert Schenkkan, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1992 for his play The Kentucky Cycle and the 2014 Tony Award for Best Play with All the Way, has been reshaped to an 85-minute, intermission-less production as opposed to a two-act piece. A few songs by the composer/lyricist Neil Berg and Robert Schenkkan (lyricist) have been retained from Denver, but the majority of the eclectic score, with elements of rock, folk, gospel and traditional Broadway melodies, is new. “There has been a great deal of changes, additions, and editing of the material,” stated McMahon.

A significant adjustment has been the inclusion of Director John Doyle, a Tony Award winner for the 2005 revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, to the creative team. Doyle’s background and experiences helped further shape The 12 into its current form. The longtime director brings the perspective of mystery plays to the production. These dramas, produced primarily in Europe, usually represent biblical subjects. In addition, Doyle, before turning his energies to the theater, was planning to go into the priesthood. According to Berg and Schenkkan, this made him “intimately familiar with miracles, religious and secular.” McMahon added that “it has given him a deeper understanding of the material in the show.”

While there are significant religious overtones to The 12 – the musical begins with a group of followers reciting the Jewish Mourner’s Kaddish and the show itself is from a part of the Passion Play – both Neal Berg and Robert Schenkkah state they are focusing on the human story. “Imagine if you were one of these ordinary people,” they said. “And this charismatic individual came to you and said, ‘Follow me.’ And for reasons that are still not clear, you put down what you’re doing, and you follow.” In addition, they both said they wanted to get at the “fundamental question of Belief and a commitment to something which cannot be proved in rational, scientific terms.”

The musical The 12 is playing through October 29 at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT. Click here for dates, times and ticket information

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