Local theater group to stage ‘Godspell’ with modern twist

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A South Jersey theater company will stage what it promises will be a modern, edgy interpretation of the musical “Godspell.”

The Blackwood-based Mainstage Center for the Arts will set the hit Broadway and off-Broadway musical based on the Gospel of St. Matthew in a contemporary neighborhood where Jesus renovates an abandoned house for use as a community shelter of love, peace and forgiveness, the theater company says.

“This idea to have Jesus come in modern times and fix up a shelter with support of the community is based on what I’ve seen happening across South Jersey during the rough economy of the last few years,” says Renee Chambers Liciaga, the director and choreographer of the production. “I’ve seen communities pull together to support local families in need. I’ve seen the power of school community care programs raising money or dropping off meals for those hurting. ‘Godspell’ is all about that sense of community and about teaching how to share and how to love.”

Chambers Liciaga says she finds it fitting the cast members take part in the mission of sharing that is such a big part of the show. Among them is John Comegno, a religious education instructor for adults preparing to become members of the Catholic Church, who plays Jesus.

“You know, we are only here for a limited time and my feeling is that we need to take advantage of that time to make an impact. My faith guides me in life,” says Comegno. “How I will play Jesus is based upon the church’s theology.”

“Godspell” features a score by Stephen Schwartz that includes the hit songs “Day By Day,” “All Good Gifts” and “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.”

The Mainstage Center for the Arts will perform “Godspell” at 8 p.m. April 1 and 2 in the Dennis Flyer Theatre in Lincoln Hall at Camden County College in Blackwood. Tickets are $16 or $21 for adults and $13 for senior citizens and students. To purchase tickets, visit www.mainstage.org or call 856-227-3091.