Sign up for a free Courant newsletter for a chance to win $100 P.C. Richard gift card

Casting For ‘Jesus’ In Manchester

Actors answering a community theater's casting call will vie to play a leading man who breathes charisma, high energy and a gentle, but strong persona.

Other qualities, especially if the competition is tough, will include supreme confidence and a healthy ego because the role is no less than Jesus Christ in the Little Theatre of Manchester's spring production of "Godpsell."

Auditions were held two weeks ago and all the roles except one were filled, Little Theatre Executive Director Dwayne Harris said Thursday.

"They just don't feel they've found 'Jesus' yet," Harris said.

An audition is set for Jan. 7 at the theater's home in Cheney Hall. Those interested in playing Jesus are asked to email auditions@cheneyhall.org.

Three men contended for the role during the first tryouts, but none possessed that certain, necessary something, director Michael Forgetta said.

"The second you lay eyes on him, you have to be able to think, 'Yeah, I'd follow him,'" Forgetta said.

As Roy Kinnard and Tim Davis wrote in their 1992 book, "Divine Images," the Jesus of stage and screen has morphed over the years. For six decades, the accepted film version, they wrote, was "a blue-eyed, white-robed Boy Scout from Judea."

The 1970s brought a leaner, angrier Nazarene as played by Ted Neeley in "Jesus Christ Superstar," and an Afro-bobbing, Superman T-shirt wearing messiah played by Victor Garber in "Godspell." More recent, R-rated depictions included Jim Caviezel as the scourged and tortured Jesus in the 2004 film, "The Passion of the Christ."

The challenge for all actors playing the Son of Man, David Keeps wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 2004, is grappling with a character who is both human and divine, "filled with sweetness and light, temptation and anger, suffering and redemption."

Set to open on April 7, the Little Theatre's production of "Godspell" is an updated, 2012 version of the musical play by Stephen Schwartz and by John Michael Tebelak. The show originally opened off-Broadway in 1971.

Although the theatrical licensing agency, Music Theatre International, describes the updated "Godspell" as "a high energy romp through the Gospel of St. Matthew," Forgetta said the show is "anything but irreverent."

The Hartford native said he knows the parables that frame the story and is well-versed in the show itself. Forgetta attended St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield for four years before deciding not to pursue the priesthood, and he played Jesus in the Windsor Jesters community theater production of "Godspell" years ago.

Musical director Kim Aliczi is an evangelical Christian and worship leader at Westford Congregational Church in Ashford. The actor who plays Jesus must be able to sing (high baritone/tenor) and pass for age 25 to 35, but above all, Aliczi said, he must be a focal point who draws the eyes of the audience.

"We'll know him when we see him," she said.

The Little Theatre of Manchester's production of "Godspell" is to run from April 7-23. For ticket prices and more information,visit www.cheneyhall.org.

Copyright © 2017, CT Now
30°