Children’s Fall Musical 2009
November 19-22, 2009, First Church was rocking under the spell of Godspell , a rock musical that retells the Gospel According to St. Matthew. This marks the THIRTIETH consecutive musical performed at First Church under the outstanding direction of Alfa Radford! The musical’s theme of people individually and collectively trying to understand the meaning of spirituality and questioning the parables in an atmosphere of safe and enjoyable communication seemed an appropriate one, given our UU traditions. The great music that has made Godspell an enduring classic helped bind together the musical’s disparate stories and charades that broadly outlined the play’s themes without a traditional story line.
The lead role, Jesus, was masterfully played by Valentin Frank in the A Cast (Thu/Sat) and Guy Parsons, in the B Cast (Fri/Sun). This was a very significant and challenging role, featuring solos “Alas for You” and “God Save the People,” not to mention the awe-inspiring number of lines. The role of ringmaster, Judas, was wonderfully carried out by Miles Cipriano and Nick Marcus-Bauer. The characters of Jesus and Judas displayed their talents for harmonious song and dance in their collaborative soft shoe number, “All for the Best.” For all four shows, Todd Johnson (as John the Baptist) captivated the audience with his riveting entrance belting out “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.”
Both Grace Mason-Brown and Elena Bennett gave very strong performances as the two Marias, with noteworthy singing and dancing in the sultry “Turn Back O Man.” Dory Nemitz and Willa Cosinuke (cast as Gabriel) should also be commended for their sequin-enhanced, upbeat “Bless the Lord.” Julia Cydzik and Hannah Read (in the role of Ruth) gave a shining performance of the classic “Day By Day,” further enriched by Claire Johnson’s graceful dance performance. Aurelle Albano and Olivia Henderson, as Tamar, stole the hearts of the audience in “By My Side,” leaving not a dry eye in the house.
In addition, musical leads were handled beautifully by Emma Lester and Sophie Klimasmith as Simon (singing “Learn Your Lessons Well”); Neal Mulani as Peter (singing “All Good Gifts”) and Matthew Hennessy and Sophia Eschenbach-Smith as Thaddeus (singing “We Beseech Thee”).
Great supportive roles (John the Disciple, Martha, Luke, Jerusha, Thomas, Philip and Jacob) were played by talented young performers (Milo Plass, Key Duckworth, Julia Martens, Abby Burden, Julius Frank, Abigail Judge and Ned Searls). Notable too were the performances by the high-spirited Troupe of Mimes/Actors (Jesse Keniston, Amelia Jones, Lily Henderson, Ayla Lopez-Casanova, and Teá Valette).
The Students of Godspell Academy should also be commended for their earnest performances, helping the audience make sense of the parables and singing the opening number “Tower of Babble,” as well as a tender rendition of “On the Willows.”
Junior Clowns lit the stage with their dazzling rainbow costumes and lively singing, while the Mini Gypsy Fortune Tellers cast a spell on the audience with their swaying skirts and convincing pleas for gold. Noah’s Animals, the youngest group of actors, won over the audience with their precious costumes, proud delivery of lines, and their collaboration with Thaddeus on “Who Built the Ark.” We have Sandy Nayak to thank once again for all of the kids’ wonderful costumes. Sandy also played a vital role as Backstage Director, assisted by Stage Manager Anna Corning. Choreography by Wendy O’Byrne was well-suited to the music. The cast proved up for the challenge of large, synchronized dance sequences such as “All for the Best,” “Bless the Lord,” “Light of the World,” and “By My Side.”
The band, one of the highlights of the show, made the walls tremble and the audience rock, especially during the show’s rousing yet poignant finale. Enormous thanks to Richard Curzi, Roger Brown, Rick Dimino, Paul Judge and Jim Wooster. Thanks also to Alfa’s sister, Marguerite Shaw, for writing wonderful lyrics and songs for Noah’s Animals, Mini Gypsy Fortune Tellers and Junior Clowns.
Producer-Director Alfa Radford, and Assistant Directors Lakshmi Nayak, Chuck Claus, Diane Lopez and Carolyn Howard should be congratulated for their devotion, skill and time in putting on a show that was not only wonderfully entertaining but educational as well. We will eagerly await future musicals, as we saw many rising stars among the cast.
It is clearly evident that this show could not have happened without the countless hours put in by so many members of the church community. Special thanks to all those involved in the set design, lighting, sound, tickets, communications, and even snacks. BRAVO! – Eliza Burden