Musicals at Richter (MAR), celebrating 37 seasons as the longest-running outdoor theater in Connecticut, opens its main stage season with Stephen Schwartz’s iconic musical “Godspell,” playing July 23 to August 7. Staged on the grounds of the Richter House Arts Center (next to Richter Park Golf Course), 100 Aunt Hack Road, in Danbury, performances take place outdoors under the stars Friday through Sunday evenings, with additional specially discounted performances on Thursday July 29 and August 5.
“Godspell” was the first major musical theatre offering from three-time Grammy and Academy Award winner Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked,” “Pippin,” “Children of Eden”), and it took the world by storm. “Godspell” premiered Off Broadway in 1971 and was made into a movie in 1973, followed by successful Broadway runs in 1976 and 2011 and numerous subsequent revivals and tours.
Based on the Gospel of St. Matthew, “Godspell” was conceived and originally directed by John-Michael Tebelak, who also wrote the book. The plot follows a small group of people who help Jesus Christ tell different parables by using a wide variety of games, storytelling techniques and hefty doses of comic timing. An eclectic blend of songs, ranging in style from pop to vaudeville, is employed as the story of Jesus' life dances across the stage. Dissolving hauntingly into the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, Jesus' messages of kindness, tolerance and love come vibrantly to life. The score features a parade of beloved songs, including "Day by Day," "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord," "Learn Your Lessons Well," "All for the Best," "All Good Gifts," "Turn Back, O Man," “Beautiful City,” and "By My Side.
“Godspell” is directed and choreographed by Musicals at Richter’s Founding Artistic Director Bradford Blake of Danbury. Blake’s work has also been seen locally at TheatreWorks New Milford, the Ridgefield Theater Barn, Sherman Playhouse, Western Connecticut State University, Southern Connecticut State University, the Bushnell Theatre in Hartford, the Shubert Theatre in New Haven and at several theaters in Manhattan and throughout the Northeast.. An accomplished composer and lyricist as well, Brad is the author of “Smorgasbord!,” “Stay Tuned,” and the holiday “slay” ride, “Wreck the Halls.“
Joining Blake as music director is Peter Randazzo of Trumbull. Randazzo last served as pianist and conductor for MAR’s production of “Hello, Dolly!” in 2016. Long active in the theater community, he is one of the music directors for Curtain Call in Stamford where he will be doing “1776” after this production. He has also worked on many shows at area high schools including Amity and Cheshire High, where he conducted “Little Women” this past spring. Randazzo has been nominated several times for Best Music Director at the Connecticut H.S. Music Theater awards. He has worked as an instructor for the nonprofit organization KEYS, which provides free instrument lessons for Bridgeport students. He is the director of the Park Street Singers in New Canaan, and most recently served as music director for the TV show Vocal Match coming this fall.
The cast of “Godspell” features a number of accomplished MAR veterans and talented newcomers. Featured in the ensemble cast are Billy Hicks (New Milford) as Jesus, Kyle Riedinger (Southington) as John the Baptist/Judas, Victor Garry Roldan (Bethel) as Jeffrey and Zachary Theis (Hamden) as Lamar. They are joined by Samantha LaMendola as Sonia, Kevin Sayour as Herb and Daisy Stott as Peggy (all of Brookfield). New York State residents in the company include Renee Browne (Patterson) as Robin, Tori Vacca (New Windsor) as Gilmer and Sarah vonEgypt (Hopewell Junction) as Joanne.
The show is produced by Musicals at Richter’s Acting Artistic Director Joyce Northrop (Danbury) and MAR alumna Olivia Minor (Danbury) serves as stage manager.
“Godspell” is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). Musicals at Richter’s 2021 season is underwritten in part by a generous grant from the City of Danbury Cultural Commission.
The 37th season closes out with the “Stars Out for Richter: A Community Cabaret of Talent” on Friday, August 13 (rain date Saturday, August 14). This one-night evening of music and entertainment is a celebration and fundraiser to support Musicals at Richter’s stage reconstruction.
MORE MORE MORE
Prepare Ye! Danbury’s Musicals at Richter Opens 37th Season Under the Stars with “Godspell” - July 23 to August 7 (Cont’d, pg. 3 of 3)
For “Godspell,” grounds open at 7:00 p.m. for picnicking, with the show at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and students (with ID) and $15 for children 10 and under. For the Thursday performances (July 29 and August 5), tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students and $10 for children 10 and under. Audience members are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets for lawn seating. A limited number of chairs are available free of charge at the concession area, and a snack/soft drink concession is on site.