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posted: 6/15/2014 6:00 AM

Spirituality helps Wheaton native embrace 'Godspell' role

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  • Wheaton native Brian Bohr plays Jesus in modern-day dress for Marriott Theatre's production of "Godspell."

    Wheaton native Brian Bohr plays Jesus in modern-day dress for Marriott Theatre's production of "Godspell."
    Courtesy of Marriott Theatre

By Megan Swindell

He played Joseph in one musical, Jesus in another.

So if Brian Bohr one day lands the lead in "Jesus Christ Superstar," he said it will complete his biblical-musical trifecta.

Bohr, a native of Wheaton, is currently starring as Jesus in Marriott Theatre's production of "Godspell," which features a series of songs and parables based on the Gospels. He said he pulls from his own religious experiences when he has a biblical role.

"I grew up going to church," Bohr said. "I feel like I have a lot of spirituality in my life."

To perfect his performance in "Godspell," Bohr read all four Gospels. He also read literature on Jesus and his disciples.

In addition, Bohr had a bit of past experience in "Godspell" -- and the role of Jesus -- to fall back on.

"I did a children's theater production of it," Bohr said. "I love musicals; that's where my passion is."

Bohr's first major theatrical performance was when he was 14. He starred as oldest son Friedrich in Light Opera Works' production of "The Sound of Music."

"I had the 'Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu' part,'" Bohr said, laughing. "That was my shining moment."

Bohr went on to major in theater at Northwestern University.

While still in college, he was cast as Joseph in Paramount Theatre's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" -- a role he later reprised for Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical follows the biblical story of Joseph, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.

Acting and singing may be Bohr's forte, but "Godspell" director Matt Raftery had the actors bringing the parables to life in more ways than one.

"We spent a whole rehearsal painting the set one day," Bohr explained. "It was our own stamp; the stage has really become our playground."

Marriott's in-the-round seating opens up the production, but provides challenges as well.

"We're not confined on the stage," Bohr said. "It's an intimate space that allows for people to feel really included."

But Bohr added that he finds himself circling around to make sure that all of the audience feels a part of the show.

"Matt has given us a lot of reminders to make sure that we are addressing each section," Bohr said. "His interpretation is so smart and so fun."

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