A View from the Cliff: “Godspell” sees the light at RTC

A blackened warehouse is pierced by the glow of a dozen lights. Shadowy figures pour onto the stage and into the orchestra pit. Trumpet blasts! Full stage lights! The musical story of “Godspell,” as told by the Rockaway Theatre Company is about to unfold.

On opening night, the magical mixture of biblical attitudes and modern sensibilities is stirred to a boil by an outstanding cast and crew. The 10 performers act out a series of parables. Although each character displays individual talent and charisma, the show makes a stronger statement as an ensemble.

Director/Scenic Designer Frank Caiati, Assistant Director Kimberly Simek and Producer Susan Jasper dig deep into their theatrical bag of tricks to dazzle the audience.

Water gushes from overhead into a wooden fountain below (master set carpenter Anthony Homsey). Bright, bold costumes are abundant. Are they throwbacks to the rebellious 1960s, the punk 1980s or to a timeless circus carnival? Matthew Smilardi, the costume designer, is also the story’s central character. He delivers his powerful words and releases his emotions in a superhero’s uniform.

New cast members Karen Mascolo, Renee Steadman, Jackie Samaha, Michelle Ricciardi and Matt Leonen (second with RTC) join in Act II’s “Day by Day” as dozens of audience members are welcomed on stage for the exuberant sing-along.

Veteran RTC performer Chazmond J. Peacock is as wonderfully irreverent as always, while displaying a full range of emotions. Nicole Mangano and Stephen Ryan have spent several seasons with RTC. They add an intense, confident edge to the project. John Panepinto plays good guy/bad guy with a passionate combination of fervor and angst.

The six-piece orchestra led by Jeffrey and Heather Arzberger deliver their unrestrained musical message with energy and professionalism. Clever choreography (Gabrielle Mangano) along with a crisp presentation (stage manager Nora Meyers and assistant Jenna Tipaldo), lighting design (Andrew Woodbridge) and sound design (Rich Louis-Pierre) provides vital support.

In today’s troubled times, the troupe has taken the lessons from “Godspell” and taught them to us with a touch of class. The unmistakable warmth that always glows from the audience and the performers gives RTC their brightest light.

For information on this show and the upcoming “Damn Yankees” call 718-374-6400 or surf to their website at www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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