Nancy Sasso Janis
- Connecticut Critic
- Connecticut Critics Circle
"But if you're smart, you'll learn your lessons well!"
Naugatuck, CT - The long-established Naugatuck Teen Theater opened their most joyful fall production of ‘Godspell’ at St. Michael’s Church Parish Hall on Friday evening. Stephen Schwartz’s collaboration with John-Michael Tebelak remains one of my favorite shows and despite the fact that I have seen numerous productions, it never gets old. Every production is a new one for me and I always look forward to see what stamp a director will put on their production.
Community theatre veteran Matt Cornish stepped up to serve as director at NTT for the first time; he comes to Naugatuck after having been the director of the theatre program at East Catholic High School for five years and having worked in youth theatre for more than a decade. This experience showed in his beautiful staging of the perfect show for young performers. He was grateful to this cast for their choices, energy and excitement that was evident throughout and in his thoughtful director’s note he focused on why our need for a caring community makes ‘Godspell’ still relevant.
WAMS Music Faculty member Marianna Vagnini-Dadamo was the Music Director and WAMS band teacher Phillip Sterling joined her in the pit to play bass. The Taft School’s T.J. Thompson stepped in at the very last minute to masterfully play the score on the piano, with Jeremy Claudio on guitar and Corey Hunter on drums. Cast member Mary Ryan played recorder on stage, Kennedy Morris sat in on guitar and Naugatuck HS sophomore Quentin LeBrecque used a long plastic horn (instead of a conch shell) from the back of the hall to open “Prepare Ye.”
I was pleased to hear that the production team decided to use the original ‘Godspell’ score, the classic versions of the songs, if you will. I am on record of not being a fan of all the changes that were made to the music for the most current production that ran on Broadway, so it was a treat for me to hear the arrangements that I have memorized from the vinyl cast album and remember from my first Broadway production that I experienced as a young teen a very long time ago.
The teen-aged cast was led by the fine acting of Bristol Eastern HS junior Dylan Cushing in the role of Jesus and the fabulous voice of Mr. LeBrecque in the dual role of John the Baptist and Judas. The rest of the cast are billed as themselves and stepped up to act out the parables and some to sing their musical numbers. WAMS student Sophia Dadamo performed “Day by Day,” and Woodland HS freshman Eliana Cambra did well with “Learn Your Lessons Well.” NHS senior Kathleen Dowling, who had the first line in the very strong prologue number, was superb on “Bless the Lord.” WAMS eighth grader Eric Canfield used sign language to perform “All Good Gifts” and WAMS sophomore Dania Fedrick and Wamogo HS student Kennedy Morris teamed up to close out the first act with “Light of the World.”
Plainville HS sophomore Caroline Sechrist, NHS sophomore Jessica Sember and NHS junior Emily Wilcox joined together to reprise “Learn Your Lessons Well” while Katelyn Lamprey, a ninth grade student from Colchester, did the sultry “Turn Back, O Man.” Watertown HS senior Mary Ryan and Woodland HS senior Lindsey Rosa blended beautifully for the duet of “By My Side” and Nonnewaug HS junior Jakob Kelsey led “We Beseech Thee.” Adam Murray began “On the Willows” and the entire cast closed out the show with both “Day by Day” and “Beautiful City.”
The rest of the cast included Naugatuck HS freshman Anna Conforti, NHS senior Matthew Goggin in this seventh NTT production, NHS sophomore Sydney Lauer, Hannah Lavergne, City Hill Middle School eighth grader Jackeline Mota, Woodland HS sophomore Adam Murray, and Woodland HS freshman Madelyn Vallillo. Also eighth grade student Tyler White and NHS junior Hanna Zeliantsova. When they all sang together, sometimes in the aisles right next to us, I got chills.
The urban set was lovingly built by the cast and some volunteers and the colorful costumes were designed by Aurora Montenero to reflect diversity without being clownish. Ribbons that the disciples tied on themselves effectively marked the tribe until they were removed for the Last Supper. Jake Finch did the excellent choreography that the students performed very well and Stage Manager Daniel Wagoner covered both lighting and sound, with Michael Newman as his lighting assistant. Resident photographer Robert Rosa is the Chairman of the NTT Board and is always in search of new board members to keep the program growing.
NTT’s ‘Godspell’ runs through November 13 at St. Michael’s Church Parish Hall on Church Street and is sponsored by Webster Bank. Come out to support a great group of area teens as they shine in their joyful fall musical. Tickets can be purchased online at naugatuckteentheater.com or the NTT Facebook page. Show dates are Nov. 5, 6, 11, 12, and 13. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for seniors and $15 for adults.
Photo by Robert Rosa