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Masque Theatre’s ‘Godspell’ Debuts April 13

The play is meant to bring the parables of Jesus Christ humanly and hearteningly to life.

For more than 25 years, Leslie Clark traveled throughout the nation as an actress, producer, director and choreographer.

As such, the Northdale resident is unquestionably well versed in theatre productions of all varieties, including Broadway sensations “Oklahoma” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” which she consecutively directed in 1994 and 1995 for Temple Terrace’s own .

After a long hiatus, the voice teacher by profession is back in town as director/choreographer of Masque’s production of “Godspell,” which debuts April 13 and runs through April 29.

Under the musical direction of Robert Jarosh, performances are at 8 p.m. each Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. on Sunday at the .

The high-energy, fun-loving production based on a book written by John Michael Tebelak and music and lyrics composed by Stephen Schwartz, is centered on New Testament parables of Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew.

It is Godspell’s underlying meaning that enticed Clark.

“It’s the human message about goodwill and love and being able to bring that to an audience,” she said. “It attracts happier experiences, and I think people in general need that message. They need to come and be uplifted and moved."

In her debut Masque performance, Katie Ward, 24, of Lutz, plays the role of Robin, the first person in her circle of stage acquaintances to commit to following the teachings of Jesus.

“She’s kind of shy but she is the first one to grasp what Jesus is saying,” said Ward, a realtor who has performed in church and theaters since early childhood.

Ward displays this in her rendition of “Day by Day,” the third song in the show’s score that reached No. 13 on the Billboard pop singles chart in the summer of 1972, following Godspell’s off-Broadway opening the previous year. The production experienced its ongoing revival on Broadway in 2011.

Ryan Blintz, 38, of Carrollwood, is cast as Jesus. While it’s also his first performance at Masque, the Lakeland elementary school music teacher has a long history of theatrical performances, including as a professional at Busch Gardens and as a performer at the David A. Stratz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.

How does it feel to portray someone revered by so many?

“It’s very humbling and very challenging, but I love it,” Blintz said. “The cast bond is amazing.”

Jonathon Hogsett, 18, of Wesley Chapel, and a theater major at Hillsborough Community College, takes on the role of John the Baptist/Judas.

“It’s probably the hardest role here,” said Hogsett, who was also cast in Masque’s production of “Footloose” and has been acting since age 6.

“I didn’t know much about the show, but I’ve always liked playing the villain. I like the emotion it evokes,” he said.

senior public relations major Vivian Gill, 20, is pleased to portray Peggy, a character she said “is not quite sure about Jesus.”

Peggy, Gill also noted, is a bit shy and slow to make commitments. But she gets along well with her community of friends.

“I love this play,” Gill said. “It’s whimsical, it’s fun, and it’s not too preachy. I think anyone would enjoy watching it.”

Leonardo Cirigliano, 20, a junior theater major at USF, plays Lamar, a sweet and innocent character, who’s not too bright.

“He gets things later than the others and he finally sees Jesus as a father figure,” said Cirigliano, a Venezuelan native.

Similar to Clark, Cirigliano said he likes the message the play conveys.

“I believe it transcends religion in that it’s about values, freedom and respect for people in your community,” he said.

Ticket prices are $14 for adults; $12 for students, military personnel and seniors 55 and older; and $10 for children 12 and younger.

For more information, visit Masque Community Theatre online or call 813-983-1710.

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