LARGO — Eight O’Clock Theatre will present “Godspell,” running May 14-23, at the Central Park Performing Arts Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo.
Maria Gerakios will direct this production of “Godspell,” with book by John Michael Tebelak and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. The show was conceived and originally directed by John Michael Tebelak and is based on the gospel according to St. Matthew.
This show will be presented in a limited-capacity cabaret setting to promote proper social distancing. Tables of four will be available for purchase as a package for $114. To avoid close contact with others outside each group, seats will not be sold individually. Guests and staff are required to wear face coverings at all times, unless seated and consuming food or beverage, inside the Central Park Performing Arts Center. For tickets and information, visit www.largoarts.com.
“Godspell,” the first major musical theater offering from three-time Grammy and Academy Award winner Schwartz, is led by the international hit "Day by Day" and features a parade of beloved songs, including "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord," "Learn Your Lessons Well," "All for the Best," "All Good Gifts," "Turn Back, O Man," and "By My Side."
A small group of people help Jesus Christ tell different parables by using a wide variety of games, storytelling techniques and hefty doses of comic timing. An eclectic blend of songs, ranging in style from pop to vaudeville, is employed as the story of Jesus' life dances across the stage. Dissolving hauntingly into the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, Jesus' messages of kindness, tolerance and love come vibrantly to life.
Starring in this production of “Godspell” are Troy Reamsnyder as Jesus and Bianca Rotonda as Judas/John the Baptist. Reamsnyder has been seen in past productions such as “West Side Story,” “The Addams Family,” and “Camelot.” Rotondo is making her EOT debut in this production. She performed at Largo High School as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” and as Susan Hollander in “Don't Drink the Water.” The cast also features Michael Cote, Kiara Dorothea, Katie Michaels, Lisa Prieto, Michael Sporck, Katie Voorhees, and Shannon Wright.
In addition to Gerakios, the production staff includes James Grenelle, director/choreographer; Jason Tucker, musical director; Grenelle and Betsy Byrd, stage managers; Nick Giallourakis, deck manager; Sarah Roehm, ASL staging; Dalton Hamilton, set design; Tony DiGiorgio, set construction; Debbi Lastinger, costumes; Hamilton, lighting design; Janet Tucker, light board; Robert Lastinger and Greg Bowen, follow spot; Austin Roberts, sound design; Byrd and Ronnie Farley, props; and Erin McLarty and AJ Quenell, crew. Byrd also serves as production manager. Jason Tucker is the show’s music director and will conduct the band.
According to Grenelle, “Godspell” has been a different sort of project for EOT.
“As someone who has directed several shows with Eight O'Clock Theatre ranging from linear book shows like ‘The Addams Family’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard’ to more cabaret/revue-style shows like ‘A Grand Night for Singing’ and ‘Disenchanted!,’ I can tell you that ‘Godspell’ is in a completely different category,” Grenelle explained in an email to Tampa Bay Newspapers. “Based on the Gospel's Book of Matthew, this show does not follow a literal storyline per se. The through line explores events leading up to Jesus's crucifixion, but is told as a series of seemingly non-related parables and songs performed by nine cast members.”
According to Grenelle, “Godspell” is full of symbolism and metaphor masked by high comedy, pantomime, and a pop-rock musical theatre score.
“Unlike most shows that have a very clear message or story, this show is deceptive,” he continued. “It's not meant to be a religious commentary or reenactment — a la ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’ It's meant to be a statement about community, friendship, and love. The religious aspect is only one component of the theme.”
Grenelle said that the process of bringing this show to life began as most shows do, with the basic mechanics of blocking, music, and choreography.
“As rehearsals continued, we explored some of the physical symbols used throughout the show along with the meanings and meaningfulness of some of the metaphors discussed in the text vs. how we can apply it in our modern day setting,” Grenelle said. “While EOT's production of ‘Godspell’ has elements that will make you laugh and cry, the bond and community this cast has created is what gives this show its heart.”
For tickets and show information, visit www.largoarts.com.
Since 1982, Eight O'Clock Theatre has entertained theatregoers in the Tampa Bay area with live performances, bringing Broadway, Off-Broadway and original productions to the stage, first in the Largo Community Center, and, since 1996, in the Tonne Playhouse at the Largo Cultural Center, now called the Central Park Performing Arts Center. For information about Eight O’Clock Theatre, visit www.eightoclocktheatre.com.