by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Orange Park Community Theatre (OPTC)) is closing the 2009-2010 season with Godspell with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by John-Michael Tebelak. This 1971 Off-Broadway musical will be on-stage at the OPTC playhouse through June 27.
This is a version of the life of Jesus done with stories and parables taken from the Gospel of Matthew. This play has been done a number of times in this area over the years, including two productions by The Alhambra Dinner Theatre. However, we’re unaware of any recent productions. In case you’re wondering, the title “Godspell” is the Old English spelling of the word ‘gospel’.
There have been many different interpretations of Godspell, ranging from the very serious to others emphasizing comedic elements. OPTC Director Randall Delone Adkison has given a new twist to this favorite. As he explains in the program director’s note: “Our production uses the idea of a troupe of actors rehearsing and workshopping a play in front of an audience.”
If you have ever been in a play or gone to an early rehearsal of a play, you know that the actors dress in casual clothing, with nothing to reflect the character they play. For example, Mr. Adkison who plays Jesus, wore blue jeans, a pullover shirt with a graphic print, and white tennis shoes. In Act II, he changed to white poplin slacks, and added an unbuttoned white dress shirt. Most of the other cast members wore clothes that, while designed to express their individuality, were appropriate for street wear (as they came to the rehearsal space) and allowed them to move about freely as they participated in “workshop” exercises and dance.
There is no real set, just an open stage with a bare concrete floor. The back wall is a see-through plastic, with a white wall behind it that changes colors through the play. The furniture is a few metal saw horses, a couple of benches and ladders, and a low black platform with moveable components. The actors carry a few hand props; the most significant a plastic water spray bottle used by John the Baptist to “baptize” cast members at the beginning of the show.
What this show has are ten actors with voices that range from good to outstanding and that is important because what makes this show are the fourteen fabulous songs. It is the music that has insured this musical its place in theatre history. Personal favorites include “Day by Day”, “We Beseech Thee”, and “O, Bless The Lord, My Soul”.
If you’ve seen the play, you know it is filled with satirical skits with social overtones about how to treat your fellow dwellers on this earth. And while the underlying advice is timeless, the script has been updated a bit with a mention of Victoria’s Secret.
Any musical production that features the vocal talents of Randall Adkison is worth seeing, and his marvelous voice does justice to every song he sings. He is a very modern looking Jesus, somewhat folksy, who certainly inspires his followers (the cast).
Erin Barnes is back on the OPTC stage, fresh from an outstanding performance as Nancy in this year’s production of Oliver. She is joined on the stage by her Husband Matt Barnes, who plays Judas and John the Baptist. He is an accomplished vocalist who also performs with the Bella Voce Cabaret along with his wife.
Also in this cast from Oliver is Lindsay Curry who was outstanding as Widow Corney in that production. You are going to see more this talented lady in future OPTC musicals.
Bryan James Hatton is making his Orange Park debut. As a lead singer for the gospel recording group Calvary’s Voice, Mr. Hatton knows his way around a stage and a song.
Beka Price is a Ponte Vedra High School student and already a veteran of two Theatre Jacksonville productions, The Secret Garden and the concert version of “Hello Dolly”.
Bradley Akers is a student at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, but already has two professional performances on his resume with Sound of Music at the Alhambra and The Fantasticks at the Gathering Dinner Theatre.
Katie LaDuca, also a student at Ponte Vedra High, was the choreographer for Godspell. Her polished performance of “Turn Back O Man” was a crowd-pleaser.
Emily Riley Piatt makes her North Florida acting debut. A native of New York, she appeared in a number of film and theatre productions at the New York Film Academy. Angela Cirino is also new to this stage, and is a sophomore at Fleming Island High School.
Laura Adkison (Randall’s wife) is the musical director and has been involved with all phases of theatre for the past 18 years. Besides raising her four- year-old daughter Cecilia and teaching drama at Nease High school, she is the founder of www.theatrealliance.ning.com, a network for The Theatre Alliance of Greater Jacksonville.
This production used taped music which was very well done thanks to Assistant Director Tim DeBorde and Nichole Ansbacher as Booth Technicians.
If you like different styles of music: Broadway, pop, folk, and rock, you will love this show. It is a fast-paced production with lots of life lessons built in for all to enjoy and learn. Don’t miss it.
A special thanks to The Tom Nehl Fund of the Community Foundation for making this production possible.
The theatre is at 2900 Moody Avenue in Orange Park. For reservations, call 904-276-2599 or visit www.opct.org. to reserve on-line.
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM