New, improved `Godspell' back

Musical: Pasadena Theatre Company is again performing John-Michael Tebelak's rocking version of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.

Arundel Live

March 23, 2000|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Pasadena Theatre Company is bringing back "Godspell," its most successful show last season and one of its most successful ever -- and the new version promises some innovations and improvements such as brighter, more colorful costumes and better choreography.

John-Michael Tebelak's "Godspell," with music by Stephen Schwartz, opened in New York in 1971. The semirock musical was conceived on Easter Sunday 1970 when long-haired Tebelak, a Carnegie Mellon University student, was returning from what was described as a dull Easter sunrise service, and was stopped by a police officer and searched for drugs.

The experience was the inspiration for "Godspell," which Tebelak produced at Carnegie with a score consisting mostly of old Episcopal hymns played by a rock band.

Tebelak left college to take the show -- which became his master's thesis -- to New York, and producers there brought in Schwartz, Tebelak's former Carnegie classmate, to write a new score.

"Godspell" is a rocking spiritual celebration of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, with characters who resemble flower children and interpret the parables within a relatively contemporary setting.

The musical is a joyous interpretation through music and improvisation of the passion of Jesus.

Known for its contagious exuberance that connects with the audience, the show centers on Jesus' teachings to love one another. The lively score includes "By My Side," "Learn Your Lessons Well," "Turn Back, O Man," and possibly the best-known song, "Day by Day."

Pasadena's new version -- which opens tomorrow at the Humanities Recital Hall at Anne Arundel Community College -- will be directed by Deborah Newman Pferdeort, with PTC President Sharon Steele as executive producer.

Two actors will alternate in the role of Jesus. John Rose reprises his role as the all-loving, wise and forgiving Jesus on April 14 and 15. In earlier performances, the role of Jesus will be played by Frank Antonio.

Joe Rose will play the dual roles of John the Baptist and Judas on the first weekend. David Duvall, who played the title role in last fall's PTC production of "Jekyll and Hyde," will play John the Baptist and Judas on the following weekends.

New actors will be featured in the remaining roles. PTC promises a larger and stronger cast than last season's. This show's run has been scheduled by PTC during the Lenten season, and the company hopes that church groups will attend performances.

The company expects to bring segments of the show to local churches after the run, which ends April 16.

Curtain times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, with an additional performance at 7: 30 p.m. April 16. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors 63 and older and students ages 13 to 18, and $6 for children younger than 12.

To order tickets, call the PTC hot line at 410-969-1801.

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