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‘Godspell’ sets sights on Forest Hills Gdns.

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The storied theatrical tradition established by The Gingerbread Players of St. Luke’s Church in Forest Hills Gardens will continue this spring with the opening of the classic musical “Godspell” on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. within the church itself at 85 Greenway South.

Additional performances continue from Saturday evening through April 6.

“Godspell,” which has its own historical tradition, tells the story of the last seven days of the life of Jesus Christ staged in a contemporary setting.

“This musical depicts the formation of the world’s first Christian community,” said Stephen Bacci, who is directing his first production for The Gingerbread Players.

He said that “Godspell” is a modernized series of about 15 parables, all pertaining to Jesus’ disciples.

There will be 135 seats available for each performance. Seating has been provided in the center sections downstairs and in the entire balcony to make sure that there will he no obstructed views.

Assisting Bacci in the production is Dean Corbett, who is the co-director and technical advisor or the show. Corbett brings a wealth of experience with him having previously contributed to the St. Luke’s Players as a writer, an actor and a director.

He said he feels that “‘Godspell’ is by far the most ambitious project ever attempted by the church’s theater group. We have had to incorporate the music with the book without that much time for rehearsals.”

The original music and lyrics were written by Stephen Schwartz and the book was written by John-Michael Tebelak. Its musical score consists of 12 original songs each sung by a different member of the cast.

There are 10 main characters in the musical plus 10 to 15 back-up players performed by both adults and children. A four-piece band will provide the music.

The musical director is Bart Haggerty. Jesus is being played by Scott Williams and the part of Judas is being performed by Jamal Wilson, who is also assisting in the choreography.

Some of the featured songs include the haunting “Day by Day,” “All Good Gifts” and “Turn Back, 0 Man.”

Bacci ‘s previous experience with The Gingerbread Players started in 1975 and, most recently, he played the part of Claudia in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” this past December

Bacci says that “assuming the position of director is a natural evolution for me because both of my parents have been involved in productions at St. Luke’s through the years”

His father, Lewis F. Bacci, directed the church’s first play in 1971, “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” Stephen’s mother, Jane Thornton, who is the set designer for the upcoming “Godspell,” wrote an original drama, “The Pied Piper,” in 1973 and she has designed and painted the backdrops for about 10 prior Gingerbread Players productions.

“I thought it was a good idea to perform ‘Godspell’ within the church to showcase its beautiful auditorium rather than the parish hail where all of the previous productions have been held,” said Bacci.

The original “Godspell” premiered May 17, 1971 Off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village. It then moved to the Promenade Theater located at Broadway and 76th Street, where it ran For 2,124 performances. Finally it had its official Broadway debut on June 22, 1976, at the Broadhurst Theater where it played 527 times. It was also made into a movie in 1973.

“Godspell has been shown somewhere in the world ever since its initial opening over 31 years ago,” said Bacci.

His lather, Lewis, was one of the founders of The Gingerbread Players of St. Luke’s along with Milburn Smith, who contributed to every production al the church for over 30 years. Smith passed away this past September at the age of 68. The two of them first met at Columbia University in the l950s and collaborated on writing several plays.

Stephen Bacci said “Milburn was my godfather and he was the catalyst for getting me interested in the theater and getting me involved in The Gingerbread Players.”

Call 718-268-6021 for tickets.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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