Students take part in Cedar Valley Youth Theatre play

From left, University of Northern Iowa (UNI) student Angelica Fink, West High School student Abby Zeets, CFHS sophomore Annie Brown, CFHS sophomore Erin McRae, Valley Lutheran student Megan Wheelock and UNI student Lily Gast sing “God Save the People” in show Godspell.

The Cedar Valley Youth Theater is putting on the musical “Godspell,” composed by Stephen Schwartz and written by John-Michael Tebelak at the Women’s Club, from March 1-10. It focuses on the story of Jesus told through a small group of people in multiple parables, dissolving hauntingly into the last supper and crucifixion. Bob Filippone is directing alongside choreographer Abby Zeets and musical directors Rosemary and Daniel Gast. This team is not new to local theater, having previously put on productions like “13 the Musical!” at the Oster Regent Theatre, and “Little Women” at the Cedar Falls Women’s Club last year. Although he works as a radiologist by day, Filippone has a passion for music and theater that takes over his nights as the owner of NOCE Jazz Club in Des Moines and the founder of Des Moines Young Artists’ Theater.  Filippone said that choosing “Godspell” was an easy task and was a musical he had been looking forward to doing for a while. 

Right, the cast sings “Light of the World.”

“I really wanted to put on a high fun energy show that concentrated more on showcasing the actors’ talents than on an expensive set and costumes,” Filippone said. “The show is about a small group of people helping Jesus to tell different parables through a wide variety of games, storytelling techniques and hefty doses of comic timing.” For Filippone, the process has been relatively easy thanks to the help of the 13 young cast members all under the age of 20.  “I love working with the young actors and being at the women’s club,” Filippone said. “It’s fun to see how everyone blossoms throughout the rehearsal process.” Sophomore Annie Brown plays one of the many people who help tell the story through parables. For her, the decision to audition for “Godspell” was a no-brainer. “I ended up auditioning because I love plays and I already knew and loved the directors of this show. I knew from the start it was going to be super fun and worth my time.”  Brown said that the music took up a lot of the rehearsal process, due to its difficult nature. “Not only are the songs challenging themselves, but the harmonies all put together are challenging every bit of my musical background.” But in the end, Brown said that the hard work really was worth it for the final product that they’ve achieved. “Now that we’ve reached the end, it sounds so good,” Brown said. “The cast has put in so much time and effort, and you can really see it paying off.” Filippone said that the wide variety of music really helps to paint the picture of how complex the story of Jesus and his disciples is. “The songs really range in styles from pop to vaudeville that displays Jesus’ messages of kindness, tolerance and love come vibrantly to life,” Filippone said.  Brown also credits choreographer Abby Zeets for putting together dances that coincide with the music in a way that allows for the score to shine. “I was kind of skeptical to have one of our castmates choreograph the whole show, but to say she pulled it off is an understatement,” Brown said. “The moves aren’t too challenging, but she puts it together in a way that makes it look so professional and sassy at the same time. I could really go on and on at how amazing both the musical directors and choreographer have been throughout this whole process.” Filippone said that the story is a timeless and eclectic blend of heart that reflects Biblical history in a modern light that everyone should come to see. “You really get to see the music come to life as Jesus’ life dances across the stage.” Brown agreed and said that the show isn’t really just about religion, but rather the gathering of people from different backgrounds toward a common goal and purpose. “Even if you don’t believe in the Gospel or the parables of Jesus, it still has a powerful message and great songs to dance boogie around with,” Brown said. “The show is really about what it means to be a good person, and leaves you with songs that you’ll want to dance around to in your living room.” “Godspell” runs March 1-10 at the Cedar Falls Women’s Club. Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2. General admission is $10. More information can be found at www.cedarfallswomansclub.com.

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