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brooklynONE Finds Perfect Setting For ‘godspell’: Church

The altar inside Redeemer Saint John’s Lutheran Church will be turned into performance space for a weekend as actors from a local theater company bring a religious-inspired musical to life in the Dyker Heights sanctuary.

“Godspell,” the Stephen Schwartz musical based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, will be presented by brooklynOne Productions on July 27, 28 and 29.

The show, which made its debut on Broadway in 1971, boasts a memorable score that features such iconic songs as “Day by Day.” John-Michael Tebelak wrote the spoken passages in the musical.

The Dyker Heights version is presented by brooklynONE Productions, Redeemer St. John’s and the Dyker Heights Civic Association. The civic association, led by President Fran Vella-Marrone, also contributed some of the financing to bring the musical to glorious life.

brooklynONE Productions Co-Founder Anthony Marino said the church is the perfect setting for the show. “I have never known of another production of ‘Godspell’ in a church,” he told this newspaper.

Marino is the show’s director.

The theater company has updated “Godspell” to make the show more relevant to today’s audiences.

The brooklynONE production “takes the whole thing in a different direction,” Marino said.

With permission of the licensing company that handles the rights to “Godspell,” Marino and brooklynONE have updated the music while keeping the original spirit of the show intact. “We have taken the 1971 version of the show and updated it to a more modern sound,” he said.

The production is also interactive.

The production came about in an unusual way, according to Marino, who works as a real estate agent at the firm Douglas Elliman.

Marino said Vella-Marrone approached him earlier this year on behalf of Redeemer St. John’s Lutheran Church and asked him to consider mounting a production of a play in the church building. “I thought it would be a great thing for Dyker Heights culturally,” Vella-Marrone told this newspaper.

It’s important for residents of Dyker Heights to realize that their community can be a home for the arts, Vella-Marrone said. In addition, residents will get to see that the civic association is there not just to help solve problems like potholes and broken street lights but to be a force in promoting the neighborhood, she said.

When Marino visited the church, located at 939 83rd St., he looked at the beautiful sanctuary and remembered a conversation he had many years ago with his brooklynONE co-founder Tom Kane.

Kane told Marino that he dreamed of performing “Godspell” in a church one day. Kane and Marino founded brooklynONE in 2006. In the theater group’s early days, it performed plays and concerts in Saint John’s Episcopal Church on Fort Hamilton Parkway.

Kane had often talked about performing “Godspell” in that church, Marino said. St. John’s Episcopal has since closed. Kane died in 2011.

The memories of his conversation with his buddy Kane came flooding back to Marino when he met with Redeemer St. John’s Church leaders about putting on a play. “I told the pastor, we have to do ‘Godspell,’” Marino said.

The time is right for “Godspell,” given the divisive political times the nation is living through, Marino said.

“The show is about building a community and loving one another without caring about political differences. We need to hear that message now,” he said.

“Godspell” will be performed at Redeemer Saint John’s Lutheran Church at 939 83rd St. on Friday, July 27 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 28 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday July 29 at 4 p.m.

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