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Who: El Dorado High School drama students
Where: Carl Borelli Amphitheater at El Dorado High School, 561 Canal St., Placerville
When: May 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17, gates open at 6:30 p.m. with the show starting at 8.
Cost: $15 general admission, $12 for students and those 55 and over
Information: Visit studio81.org or call 530-622-3634
Get ready for goosebumps as El Dorado High School presents the glorious play, “Godspell,” guaranteed to send the audience’s emotions soaring.
Share the drama students’ joy and exuberance as they swoop down the aisles of the Carl Borelli Amphitheater, singing and dancing as they take to the stage to impart messages of love and hope based on Biblical parables.
Jesus and Judas are two of the main players in the show that has been described as “the Bible of rock,” with the production that began as a musical by Stephen Schwartz on Broadway in 1971 becoming the high school’s ambitious spring play.
Also a book by John-Michael Tebelak, the story has captivated crowds in various venues and throughout many revivals, including a run from 2011 to 2012 on Broadway. It is that most recent revival that is echoed by the El Dorado student actors, according to stage mom and costume designer Terri Thomas, who watched recently as daughter Lindsey and fellow cast members went through their paces during a rehearsal in the amphitheater.
Lindsey Thomas, wearing an aqua-and-chartreuse frothy skirt with pink-and-brown cowgirl boots, danced with delight as her crucifix earrings and necklace bobbed in time with the catchy music, joining cast members as they sang with “Jesus,” played by Ethan Fox. A young man wearing a striped T-shirt reminiscent of “Where’s Waldo” and a young lady clad in colorful crenoline bounced through the number, leaving observers with one thought: What the heck is going on with these kids and their outfits?
Costumes make a statement
“This production is based on the 2012 revival and the best way to describe the costumes is that some are grungy, some bohemian — they’re eclectic, not like the period outfits for plays such as ‘Chicago’ or ’42nd Street,’ which the kids have done in the past,” said Terri.
Terri has helped outfit the students since her 17-year-old daughter joined the drama program, watching as Lindsey perfected her talents.
Lindsey, who plays “Lindsay” in “Godspell,” said she plans to major in marine biology and hopes to take her dual talents into becoming an animal trainer at Sea World.
“That way I can combine both acting and biology,” said the senior who has been in five productions at El Dorado High.
Lindsey, who will celebrate her 18th birthday on the opening evening of “Godspell” on Thursday, May 1, said she is enjoying portraying “Lindsay,” describing her character as “sassy, loud and sort of a showoff.”
A hopeful message
“Godspell is such a unique show, reflective of the drama of community,” she added. “It depicts the support of a whole community toward one another, through parables from the Bible and through fun songs. There are lots of other things involved, of course, and I hope the audience will gain a new perspective on the importance of community and love.”
Lindsey said she also enjoys the fact that El Dorado High drama teacher Paul Tomei is having the chance to present “Godspell” once again to local audiences.
“I know it’s close to Tomei’s heart,” said Lindsey.
Tomei explained that 15 years ago he directed “Godspell” at the high school and this production that runs through mid-May brings him full circle.
“I don’t like to repeat shows and in fact this is my first repeat,” said Tomei, who had a hard time keeping a smile from his face during the recent rehearsal. “But I think it’s fitting that I had my first child born four weeks ago, Leonardo … and my dad, Mike, passed away a month before that.”
Life’s journey and the lessons waiting to be learned provide the basis for “Godspell,” with love the central theme during the days of Christ and the friend who ultimately would betray him, Judas.
The youthful actor playing Judas, Evan Lucero, said the man in the Bible is often misunderstood, with his name vilified throughout the ages. Evan also is cast as John, and when asked whether he is playing two parts in “Godspell,” his cryptic answer is just another reason to make sure to see this production.
“Essentially they are the same person, it’s kind of a blend of the two,” he said. “Judas was never evil, as strange as that sounds. He was contrite, horrified at what he had done to his friend, and he was struck by how it was all so unnecessary.”
Evan said play-goers don’t need to have a religious background in order to enjoy “Godspell,” as it is “more all around a fun time, more about values.” The 17-year-old has been in about a half-dozen plays at El Dorado High and he said in the past the dancing has been the biggest attraction for him.
“I have always been a natural dancer, something that I taught myself; I had no formal training,” he explained. “It’s widely known that I like to dance but now I find I’m gravitating more toward singing.”
Evan said it is quite possible he will pursue a career with his dramatic talents.
“That’s the way it’s looking,” he said. “I recently went to the California State School for the Arts for four weeks, a program where you have to be accepted in order to participate. I like the dancing, the singing, a combination of different things. And I also keep getting an inkling that I might want to direct.”
Pursue those dreams
The possibilities afforded youth and indeed, all ages, to pursue hopes and dreams and worthy goals are highlighted in “Godspell,” which is punctuated by the upbeat stylings of the high school’s music students, under the direction of Music Director Richard Gray. Those attending the rousing production are apt to recognize the strains of pop hit “Day by Day,” among other well-known songs in the lineup.
“The kids in the band have spent two hours a week for five weeks rehearsing, plus a couple of Saturdays,” said Gray. “It’s a great group of kids, and they had a CD to work with to get the music down.
“They love it.”
As the 10 main players and 20 other cast members and chorus sang a song with a main verse of “When will God save the people … God save the people,” a friend of director Tomei sat on the sidelines, studying the surroundings.
Ron Dumonchelle, who attended Sac State with his pal, will be handling the lighting for the tricky play, which begins as dusk settles in and is performed largely in the dark. Likely that twilight to black situation will prove no problem for Dumonchelle, who owns Monkey Glue Lighting in Sacramento.
“I have been lighting designer for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jay Leno and others,” said Dumonchelle, who lives in El Dorado Hills. “Paul’s is the only high school plays I do. I’ve been helping him out for five or six years now.”
Dumonchelle said the biggest challenge for “Godspell” is trying to depict as accurately as possible the 1970s, with no high tech tools involved. “It takes the story from dusk to night, by creating a streetlight kind of lighting.”
The veteran lighting professional said he has been happy to assist his buddy throughout the years and particularly for this play.
“Paul and Jen just had a little boy,” he said, watching as Tomei scooted from one vantage point to another in the sunny, expansive amphitheater, calling out instructions to the students.
With “Godspell” based on Biblical messages, particularly drawing from the book of Matthew, the student actors will strive to take the audience through the circle of life, from devastation into love.
Although “Godspell” usually is performed by a cast of 10, Tomei decided to add to the lineup, creating parts to accommodate more young actors who wanted to share in the infectious joy brought to the amphitheater.
In addition to Lindsey Thomas and Evan Lucero, the core cast includes Ethan Fox as Jesus, Logan Tiley as Telly, Caleb Morris as Nick, Raymond Thomas as George, Gwen Lacher as Anna Marie, Autumn Lulla as Celisse, Samantha Chaves as Uzo and Hannah Van Vleet as Morgan.
Joining director Tomei, band director Gray and costume designer Thomas, vocal directors are Michelle Jones and Lorna Perpall.
Choreographer is Beverly Stewart, set designer is Diana Erickson and master carpenter is Dave Shelnutt.
Lighting designer Dumonchelle’s crew is Ben Butler, Jeremy Haverson, Odin Rasco, Alyssa Croffoot and Dayton Morris.
Sound designer is Marc Bonham, stage manager is Marty Sherin and designing the posters is Becky Lucero.
“Godspell” will run May 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17 at the Carl Borelli Amphitheater at the high school, 561 Canal St. in Placerville. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. with the show starting at 8.
Tickets are $15 general, $12 for students and those 55 and over.
For more information visit studio81.org or call 530-622-3634.