By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Westborough – Director and choreographer Marianne Lonati believes that the upcoming production of “Godspell” by the Westborough Players’ Club (WPC) in its 79th season will offer audiences some relief from recent tragedies in the news worldwide. Originally produced in the early-1970s, the show playfully presents a series of parables from the gospel of St. Matthew along with song-and-dance numbers.
“With the frightening state that our world seems to be in right now, this is a very hopeful show,” she said. “It teaches lessons of love and kindness. Although it’s based on the word of St. Matthew, it applies to a lot of everyday life today.”
“Godspell” will be staged Fridays and Saturdays, Aug. 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 21, at 2 p.m. at the Willows of Westborough, located at 1 Lyman St. Renee Hersee is serving as musical director with Brian Kelly as producer. This marks the third WPC musical that Lonati directed at this venue.
“It’s a small, intimate space – just what you need for this show,” she noted. “Everybody in the cast talks to the audience. We expect the audience to go on this journey with us.”
Portraying Jesus is Liam Devine. Lonati recognizes similar personality traits shared by the actor and character.
“Liam is very sweet and loving, and that’s my image of Jesus,” she said. “As the leader, he gently guides the cast and audience through these stories and lessons.”
This production includes updated references ranging from cellphones to timely political comments. Cast members are individually texting when they’re drawn together by John the Baptist, played by Mike Ciccolella. Singing “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” he announces the arrival of Jesus and rallies the troupe to be baptized.
“Mike sounds and looks great doing that song,” Lonati raved. “He’s a very powerful presence.”
In the original off-Broadway production the same actor played John the Baptist and Judas. Lonati chose to cast the roles separately. She cast Jon DiPrima as Judas, who loves Jesus as displayed while singing their duet “All for the Best.” However, Judas ultimately betrays Jesus.
“Jon is following my direction and playing Judas sympathetically,” Lonati said. “It’s hard for an actor to start out in this fun, upbeat show and know that he has to get that serious at the end. The same could be said for Liam as Jesus and all of the cast. It’s an intricate transition.”
The show’s music includes the popular hit “Day by Day.” The ballad is sung in this production by Kelly Bubello.
“It’s a beautiful song and it fits Kelly’s voice very well,” Lonati said.
Among the other songs performed are “Light of the World” led by Nicole Bates and Adam Duval; “All Good Gifts” by Maya Deschenes; “O Bless the Lord” by Sara Grina; “Turn Back, O Man” by Mick Lonati; “We Beseech Thee” by Anthony Masciangioli; and “Learn Your Lessons Well” by Meg Norton.
Similar to the original production, Lonati is encouraging the performers to draw upon their own personalities to define the characters they play. Their improvising at rehearsals three nights weekly is adding to the playful script.
“It’s lovely to see them play together,” Lonati said. “Their personalities are different, but they blend together incredibly well. They’re a very tightknit cast, which is important for a show like this.”
Tickets are $18 general admission, $15 students and seniors. Email [email protected] or call 508-475-9725. Ticket requests must include full name, contact information, performance date, and the number of adult and/or student/senior tickets. Online ticket purchases are available with a service fee at ticketstage.com/T/WSTBPC. For more information, visit westboroughplayers.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/WestboroughPlayers.