Photo by Martha Rogus Warren Players’ Godspell cast members re-enacting a “behind the bars” move from the prison scene include a mix of pastors and community members, including, from left, in front, Allan Branthoover, Chelsea Burkett, and Jim Stowe; second row, Corey Bailey, Amanda Johnson, Catherine Hayes, Kelsey Angove, and Beth Ruth; third row Dawn Sears, Logan Beard, Matthew Scott, and Rick Nelson. Missing from photo are Bethany Chapman, Brionna Childs, Khlare Bracken, Beverly Peterson, Beth MacPherson, LuAnn Saeli, Karin Davidson, Karen Conarro, and Darla Sabat.

Christ’s messages of love, tolerance, and inspiration shine through in the Warren Player’s upcoming production of Godspell.

Messages of love and tolerance were conveyed in the original production, which was the master thesis project of John Tabelak and music score by Stephen Schwartz performed on May 17, 1971, at Carnegie Mellon University. Godspell then made it to a theatre club in Greenwich Village, where it took off in popularity and became a Broadway hit; internationally as well. The original play included several parables of Christ in the retelling of the Gospel of Matthew (Wikipedia).

Although inspiration is not included on Tabelak’s list of messages, it’s certainly a by-product under Randy and Julie Baughman’s direction and music.

Baughman said the Warren Players have gone through significant changes over the years and, “if you can’t come together to have fun, what’s the point?”

He added, “the Warren Players lost the sense of having fun somewhere along the way. And the idea of the Warren Players is supposed to be to experiment in theatre and learn different aspects about and from others, while having fun.”

To counteract whatever is lacking, Baughman was excited to share that, instead of regular bios listing cast members’ theatre experiences, his Godspell bios reveal what inspires each of the cast members. He specifically asked, “what inspires you?” for the bios.

And he noted that more men turned out for the audition than he had seen in a long time.

Lou Cable is this show’s producer. Cable said the actors are playing themselves in Godspell, and that’s what makes the play so different. The only characters you will recognize from Biblical scripture are Jesus and Judas, even though the parables are based on the Gospels of Matthew.

And three local pastors, as well as other community members make up the cast.

Cable said “it’s a show for anyone, from age 8 to 80, or really everyone.”

Baughman said the parables include the widow’s story, the exalt/humbling story, and the good samaritan to name a few. Godspell puts those messages into today’s world.

Cable said that there are two acts, but all the actors are on stage the entire time — including the choir (with Fran Leto as assisting pianist), and a band (under the direction of Julie Baughman).

“Everyone is on stage at the same time!” Cable said.

According to Baughman, the band includes two guitars, one electric bass, and two keyboards. Sue Spencer serves as choreographer, and Joy Crandall is the production manager.

This is Baughman’s fifth production of Godspell, with only one other performed for a secular audience and that was when he was in high school. He said, “another thing that makes this production of Godspell unique is that they will be serving communion during The Last Supper portion of the play. Although the communion is real, Baughman noted, “it’s symbolic in nature.”

Baughman’s hope is that this production of Godspell will “touch a few hearts, spirits, and minds along the way.”

Godspell is slated for May 4-6 (Thursday through Friday) at 7 p.m., and May 7 (Sunday) at 2 p.m. — at Struthers Library Theatre in Warren.