`Godspell' opens new season at City Dock

Summer Garden, 2007 also to stage `Sweeney,' `Modern Millie'


May 25, 2007|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,Special to The Sun

Two events this week signal the start of summer in Annapolis: Naval Academy Commissioning Week and the opening of Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre.

The outdoor theater across from City Dock opens its 41st season of three shows tonight: Godspell, which runs through June 23, followed by Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd in July and Thoroughly Modern Millie in August.

At Godspell rehearsal on Saturday morning at West Annapolis Elementary School, director Douglas Kotula said his love for New York City inspired him to stage the production on a New York subway car. Jesus appears as the conductor and Judas as a Wall Street entrepreneur with the disciples stereotypical New Yorkers.

Kotula, who is a 2003 New York University theater program graduate, is running his second Garden Theatre show. He did My Fair Lady in 2003.

Kotula is working with Barbara Markey, who he described as "a musical dynamo." They worked together in The Wizard of Oz, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and My Fair Lady.

Kotula, who is currently the drama director at Pikesville High School, has a long list of acting and directing credits that include seven years of directing, producing and choreographing for the Severna Park Stage Company.

"This show is great for today's times to replay its message in a contemporary way," said Markey, who is a Spanish teacher at Broadneck High School. "Doug is a master at bringing fresh ideas to all the songs we know and love. Now in our fourth collaboration, we're now finishing each other's sentences."

Their easy rapport with each other and with the assembled cast members and musicians was apparent. This is a demanding show, with the 10 leads in the show rarely off-stage.

Easter 1970 was the inspiration for Godspell. John Michael Tebelak, a Carnegie Mellon University student, was returning from what was described as a "dull Easter sunrise service.".

His original score consisted of old hymns played by a rock band. When Tebelak took the show, which became his master's thesis, to New York, producers brought in Stephen Schwartz, Tebelak's classmate at Carnegie, to write a new score.

A celebration of the Passion of Jesus, the show boasts a lively score including "By My Side," "Learn Your Lessons Well," "Turn Back, O Man" and "Day by Day .

Severna Park High School sophomore Paul Massaro, 15, is cast in the role of Jesus. He's been in a number of high school productions and Talent Machine and Children's Theatre of Annapolis shows.

Emily Gerbasi designed the costumes, and Peter Kaiser did the set design. Others in the cast include: R.J. Pavel as Judas, Rebecca Feibel as a bag lady, Andrew Lamb as a bicycle messenger, Kyle VanZandt as an New York University student, Shannon Benil as a tourist, and Ben Dillard as a window washer. Alicia Osborn plays a hooker; Rikki Gimelstob is a Broadway hopeful, and Kristin Mihalcik plays a soccer mom.

"Godspell" plays every Thursday to Sundays through Sept. 1 at the theater, 143 Compromise St. in Annapolis. Season subscriptions for all three shows cost $39 for adults and $30 for students and seniors. Individual seats cost $15 for adults and $12 for students, seniors and groups of 20 or more. 410-268-9212.

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