Our Gang Presenting ‘Godspell’ This Weekend

Jesus on the Boardwalk
Oct 09, 2018
Supplied Photo

The Our Gang Players will present “Godspell” this Friday and Saturday, Oct. 12 and 13, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 14, at 2 p.m. at the Stafford Township Arts Center, located at 1000 McKinley Ave., Manahawkin. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students and $12 for children 12 years of age and younger. They may be purchased online at ourgang.org, by phone at 609-597-0553 or at the door.

“Godspell,” with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by John-Michael Tebelak, opened off-Broadway in 1971 and ran for 2,124 performances through 1976. It then moved to Broadway, where it ran for five previews and 527 performances. “Godspell” was revived on Broadway on Nov. 7, 2011, and ran through June 24, 2012. It has been performed throughout the world and is extremely popular with community theater, high school and church troupes because of its minimal set and costume requirements and the fact that it can have a cast as small as 10 but can be stretched to near infinity.

The core characters in Our Gang’s production are Jesus (Jon Voinski), John the Baptist/Judas (Buddy Stankowski) and nine street people/disciples who are assigned modern-day names – Robin (Lily Targett), Gilmar (Ryleigh McDonald), Lamar (Laurie Toole), Sonia (Carly Voinski), Jeffrey (Michall Maloney), Joanne (Sara Targett), Herb (Jacob Mastroly), Peggy (Alena Mohr) and Meggy (Lauren Pascucci). They sing and act out parables from The Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John.

As per usual, Our Gang, known for its “casts of thousands” (OK, not thousands, but scores, the better to accommodate every adult and child in Southern Ocean County and beyond who wants to become involved in musical theater), has puffed up the cast of the show considerably. Featured dancers include Pascucci, Mohr, Savana Stankowski, Autumn Targett, Sage Targett, Lily Targett and Ryleigh McDonald while featured vocalists include Marlyse Haack, Jonathan Voinski and Savana Stankowski. The ensemble, known as “Storytellers,” includes Samantha Boyle, Chloe Devaney, Haack, Aubrey Huff, Giana Nese, Kaylee Pendleton, Alexandra Ring, Savana Stankowski, Mya Stankowski, Kurt Stofko, Sage Targett, Autumn Targett, Amanda Terzian, Jonathon Voinski and Debra Wade.

Schwartz wrote original lyrics for “Godspell” but also borrowed heavily from the Episcopal hymnal. By the way, that wasn’t uncommon in the early 1970s – both the lyrics and music of the Cat Stevens 1972 hit “Morning Has Broken” came from that same hymnal.

Schwartz’s music, though, was original, an eclectic and sometimes electric mixture of pop, folk rock, gospel and vaudeville. Many of the show’s songs, such as “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” “Save the People,” “Day by Day” and “Light of the World,” could be heard on both FM and AM radio in the early 1970s. Indeed, “Day by Day” reached No. 13 on the Billboard pop singles chart in the summer of ’72.

Amazingly, the spiritual and positively positive “Godspell” was somewhat controversial in its early years. Casts were often costumed as clowns or hippies, something that didn’t please fundamentalist Christians. The show was often set in slums as well – Jesus among the poor, a concept that made “Godspell” seem like left-wing Liberation Theology propaganda to some.

Our Gang is setting the show, appropriately enough for the Jersey Shore, on a boardwalk.

“We wanted to do something modern and locally inspired,” said Dakota Reider, who is directing the Our Gang production along with Elle Jones, with the help of choreographer Sara Targett, “something that would give a fresh take on such a popular show. Our set is ambitious – a massive 40-foot long and 11-foot wide boardwalk platform is the main set piece, with plenty of accessory pieces to match. This is definitely a ‘Godspell’ people haven’t seen before!”

— Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

Comments (1)
Posted by: Neal J Roberts | Oct 13, 2018 09:16

Thank you, Rick Mellerup, for your timely review of the Our Gang Players Community Theatre production of "Godspell" [The SandPaper, Oct. 10] at Stafford Township Arts Center. And loudest applause for Artistic Director Sherry Schnepp, "Godspell" co-directors Elle Jones and Dakota Reider, and gifted actress/choreographer Sara Targett, who cast an astoundingly talented group of amateur singers/performers who, in less than two months time, polished a heartwarming, often humorous and, ultimately, spiritually moving musical drama that, to this viewer's amateur ear on opening night, seemed flawless! Well done, Our Gang Players!

Neal Roberts

Lanoka Harbor



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