The Park Players, a Hudson and Bergen County community theatre group, believe that there is an acting role for everyone, no matter what their age or experience. This month, their production of the musical “Godspell” will feature an entirely new cast, mostly amateurs in their mid-20s.
Park Players Chairperson Joseph D. Fiorenza Conklin, who is also the director of the production, said that 33 years ago he performed the role of Herbie.
“Any chance I get to do something that I love, I do it.” – Arlene Ng
Former student is choreographer/actress
Conklin said most of the cast auditioned for the production when they heard about it through newspapers or word of mouth. However, he needed a choreographer and an actor to fill the role of Lamar, so he contacted a former student, Arlene Ng.
“She was my first grade student at Woodrow Wilson School,” said Conklin, who explained that she played Annie Warbucks when he needed a replacement years ago. “Now she is a professional choreographer.”
Now Ng, a 24-year-old resident of North Bergen, teaches English as a Second Language at Robert Fulton School and has performed in off-Broadway theatre in New York City.
I grew up here, and with Joe [Conklin], it was kind of my first big role when I did Annie Warbucks,” said Ng. “He needed me and it was a way to come back and do something for the community. Any chance I get to do something that I love, I do it, it doesn’t have to be on Broadway or off-Broadway.”
“Godspell” was a controversial musical when it was first performed on Broadway in 1971. It interpreted the Gospel of Matthew through vaudeville, face paint and pantomime. It was created by Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote the music for “Wicked.” There is a Broadway revival of “Godspell” scheduled for the fall.
Talented cast performing in church
Conklin said that his entire cast, composed of 10 Hudson and Bergen County residents, is talented and full of fresh ideas.
Kay Koch, 26, of Jersey City, is playing both of the male roles of John the Baptist and Judas, along with playing her bass guitar. “There is nothing in [“Godspell”] that says it could not be played by a woman,” said Koch.
Conklin says he believes in non-traditional casting. There will also be a chorus comprised of four young children, along with Rev. Dr. Allison M. Moore.
Moore is allowing the group to perform at her Church of the Good Shepherd of Fort Lee, on the condition that she be able to join in and sing.
Koch said the last place you’d expect to see “Godspell” performed is in a church, which is all the more reason for people to come and see it.
“You have people [here] who believe in the arts because they are so open to all ideas,” said Conklin, about Moore and her congregation.
Worth your while
Shannon Piegaro, 24, of Jersey City, is performing the role of Gilmer after taking a hiatus from acting for several years.
She said that getting the chance to perform is very fulfilling.
Ng’s sister, Mariette, 22, also of North Bergen, agreed. She also is a former student of Conklin.
“In general, it’s something that brings people together, their love of music, their love of dance, their love of acting,” said Mariette. “A lot of our youth are going into doing other things, instead of seeing how things like this are positive.”
Performances are on Feb. 25 and 26 and March 4 and 5 at 8 p.m., and on Feb. 27 and March 6 at 5 pm. For more information or to purchase tickets call (201) 941-6030 or visit www.parkplayers.com.