Troupe returns to 'Godspell'

Pasadena Theatre Company performed first of 3 previous productions in 1999

Preview

May 21, 2008|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Sun

The Pasadena Theatre Company has an affinity for Godspell, which it first performed in 1999, became its most successful show ever when it ran for the second time in 2000 and was a strong crowd-pleaser when it was last revived in April 2005.

Now the troupe is rehearsing the musical a fourth time around for a one-weekend run at the Anne Arundel Community College Humanities Recital Hall.

"This show is back by popular demand," director Chuck Dick said before rehearsal last week at Unity by the Bay Church in Severna Park. "This is the second time I've directed it, and again I find the cast's sensitivity to its message a strong factor in our success. We're always looking to add to the experience and base what we do on the talents of current cast members."

Company President Sharon Steele, executive producer of Godspell, compared putting on Godspell with retelling the most beautiful love story.

"It's about friendship, love, betrayal and, most of all, forgiveness and healing - all the ingredients that are part of our relationships with one another," she said. "Some people may consider the show a little irreverent in some areas, but like the Bible, there are many different opinions and interpretations. This show is not only hilarious, but it is beautifully and reverently performed by our ensemble of actors. I never tire of the music, and even find myself humming the tunes at the strangest moments. I'm so happy that we have it back for another fantastic run."

The musical was conceived on Easter Sunday 1970, after long-haired Carnegie Mellon University student John Michael Tebelak, returning from what he described as "a dull Easter sunrise service," was stopped by a Pittsburgh police officer and frisked for drugs.

Tebelak produced his musical 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, where producers brought in a largely unknown 22-year-old Stephen Schwartz, Tebelak's former Carnegie classmate, to write a new score to open off-Broadway in May 1971.

It achieved a long-running record of 2,124 performances before moving to Broadway for 527 more.

The award-winning musical continues to enchant audiences with its celebration of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Characters resembling flower children and clowns interpret the parables and offer such tunes as "All for the Best," "Prepare Ye," "By My Side" and "Day by Day" to illustrate Jesus' teaching to love one another.

Pasadena Theatre Company chose actor Stephen Michael Deininger to play the role of Jesus. Deininger has been seen at Annapolis Summer Garden in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Urinetown, and he played Lee Harvey Oswald in Colonial Players' productions of Stephen Sondheim's The Assassins and the title role in Jekyll and Hyde.

Deininger said at last week's rehearsal that he first played Jesus in Godspell as a teenager, "and I'm grateful to have this chance to reprise the role now."

Returning cast members include Christy Stouffer, who said this is her favorite show; Jason Kimmell, who will serve as choreographer, and Mark Tyler, who will reprise his 2005 role as John the Baptist.

Returning Godspell musicians include Tom Jackson as musical director, Tom Delaney on guitar and percussionist Mike Morris.

New to this production are Claire Edwards, Andrea Elward (who has graced many other Pasadena Theatre Company shows), Christopher Oleniewski, Lauren Riley, who was seen in the company's Camelot and Christmas Carol, and Anwar Thomas, who has made his mark at AACC's Moonlight Troupers' productions of Ragtime, Crazy for You and Honk.

Performances are scheduled at 8 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15 general admission and can be purchased at www. ptcshows.com. Group sales (20 or more) are available at 410-975-0200, sharon@ptcshows.com or steelecasting@juno.com.

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