'Godspell'

“Godspell” cast members (left to right) Daryl Kelley, Jared Levey, Claire Twigg, Sean Eppler, Connor Stout, Amanda Tidwell, Ryan Routh, Hope Spinner and Anna Gallucci rehearse The Last Supper scene at a recent rehearsal at the Medina Performing Arts Center. The show opens July 22.

MEDINA – The artists in residence at the Medina Performing Arts Center feel they have several responsibilities: bringing professional-quality theater to town, using Medina natives in the cast and crew and putting on relevant shows with a message.

In 2014, the community theater company CAMEO produced “RENT,” a show touching on a number of LGBTQ issues. Last year, it was “West Side Story,” which personifies racial unrest.

And while this year’s production of Stephen Schwartz’s 1970s hit “Godspell” may seem like just an old standby, it’s not. CAMEO producer and light designer Mike Sferro and director Colin McCord said they’re taking a “much more dramatic approach, rather than comedic,” while also bringing updated orchestration and set design for the story based on the Gospel of Matthew.

The show – which CAMEO promises “stays true to Jesus’ messages of kindness, tolerance and love” – opens July 22 and runs July 23, 28, 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. and July 24 and 31 at 2 p.m.

“It’s timely based on the current state of events in our country,” Sferro said.

“In my vision in conceiving the show, I’ve really taken the political divisiveness we have today, that’s kind of a huge jumping off point. It’s basically what if the show were to take place in a world not too far away from ours, but escalated further,” added McCord.

McCord has returned to Medina after working in the theater scene in Indianapolis, Ind. for a number of years. He said the content of the show – the main character of which is Jesus Christ, played by Medina native Connor Stout – is an “essential universal element.”

“It worked out that the timing of when we open is coinciding with when the Republican National Convention is nominating their nominee. What a perfect time to comment on the relevance of the story and the core of the message that Jesus had,” McCord said.

“Even taking religion out of it, Jesus was not about divisiveness at all,” Sferro added. “Part of our responsibility is taking the thing we love, the arts, and presenting it in a way that’s not just going to be a cute evening out, but actually make people think a bit.”

CAMEO is now in its 13th season when producing a local show. Not your average community theater program, CAMEO draws in much higher volume when compared to other community theater groups in the state of Ohio, Sferro said.

“Part of our responsibility is also helping to make Medina a destination. Dinner and a show is a reality here with everything our community has to offer,” Sferro said.

Playing into the local angle of the show, returning Medina natives also include Oksana Klue (choreography), Katie Peyton (costume designer), Megan Harvey (assistant producer), Emily Amon (properties design) and a handful of others on the leadership crew of more than a dozen.

The cast also includes a variety of actors and actresses with Medina origins, including resident Ryan Routh, who plays The Illusion in “Godspell” and played Bernardo in last year’s “West Side Story.”

Tickets for each show are $15 for students, seniors 60 and better and members of the military. Adult general admission tickets are $18. They are on sale at www.cameo-medina.org or Medina and Brunswick Buehler’s stores.

Due to intense thematic elements, some material may not be suitable for children.

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