‘Godspell’ to be staged at new CNY Arts Center facility

The CNY Arts Center will present “Godspell” Aug. 17-26 in the group’s new location at the Park Street entrance of State Street Methodist Church, 357 State St., Fulton.

The hit musical enjoyed a Broadway revival last year with the 40th anniversary of the classic story. “Godspell” first opened when John-Michael Tebelak created the concept for his senior thesis directing project as a Carnegie Mellon University master of fine arts candidate.

After a two-week, 10-performance run at an experimental theatre club, two producers approached Tebelak with the opportunity to run the show Off Broadway.

Stephen Schwartz, a Carnegie Mellon theatre alum, joined the team to create a new score and the show opened off-Broadway in 1971to immediate success.

A few months later, “Godspell” moved to a larger theatre where it became one of the longest running Off Broadway musicals in history.

After five years of sold-out audiences Off Broadway, the show debuted on Broadway in 1976 and played another 527 performances.

In the 40 years since, “Godspell” has seen countless productions around the world in large and small theatre companies, schools and churches.

Several cast albums have been released creating popular familiarity among fans with such songs as “Day by Day,” which reached number 13 in the Billboard Top 100 chart in the summer of 1972, only a year after the musical opened.

Much like the show, Schwartz has gone on to critical acclaim as an Academy and Grammy Award winner and six time Tony Award nominee. Creator John-Michael Tebalak died of a heart attack in 1982 at the young age of 35.

“‘Godspell’ has a cult following around the world,” said Nancy Fox, director of the production. “It’s more than singing and dancing and storytelling of a familiar tale. There is a real transformation taking place in the cast that moves vicariously into the audience in unexpected ways.

“A group of disparate personalities come together as a new cast — strangers who spend weeks together exploring and expressing and building trust,” Fox added. “They learn to work together as one body that has its own energy and sense of purpose. That sense of belonging and shared group power and dynamics can be life-altering and affirming.”

Fox noted that the play is a fitting metaphor for the origin of CNY Arts Center as “strangers came together and built a body that now works with a common goal and purpose – to address the maladies that afflict the individual residents and tear away the quality of life which create despair for the whole.”

“When everyone works together in a positive context, as demonstrated by the actors working toward opening night, the possibilities for change and hope are increased exponentially,” Fox continued. “A fitting song near the end of ‘Godspell’ tells the audience when faith is shattered and trust is all but gone, we can come together and build a beautiful city as one body all working together regardless of religion, race, wealth, or party affiliations. What we do matters and this live production, this living art, is a vehicle to help us see that played out on stage. This makes ‘Godspell’ a perfect choice for our premiere production.”

Those seeking more information about production dates and times, tickets and reservations may visit the group’s web site at www. CNYArtsCenter.com or call 216-8790.

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