Looking for stories with heart and hope? Try a performance produced with the collaboration of a group of kids.
Zing Productions of Danville and its Stars Rising youth performance troupe will be staging a production of Stephen Schwartz’s “Godspell” on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Shiloh United Church of Christ.
Based on the Gospel according to Matthew, “Godspell” deals with the last days of Jesus and includes dramatized versions of several well-known parables.
“They’re great, timeless stories,” said John Brady, executive director of Zing Productions. “They’re wonderful stories that are full of heart: Be nice to each other. Treat your friends well.”
"Everybody knows the story of Jesus despite their beliefs, which makes it one of the most iconic stories of all time,” said actor Allie Willhouse, of Elysburg. “Godspell has the perfect blend of fun and serious moments, and the music just enhances it. The upbeat songs have us dancing in our seats at practice while the heartfelt songs have goosebumps appearing on our skin.”
“Godspell” is a well-known show with songs that entice people to sing along, said Chris Elio, production director, adding that even though the content of the musical is serious — Jesus’ last days on earth — the mood is generally uplifting.
“One of the reasons people should come see our show is that no matter what you believe in, it has messages that everyone can get behind,” said actor Connor Elio, of Shamokin. “Messages of kindness and compassion are messages we NEED to spread like wildfire, and this is a perfect show for that.”
The actors range in age from 11 to 20.
"They’re really amazingly talented kids,” Brady said. “They’re just wonderful.”
“It is a privilege to work with such talented artists from other schools that I usually would not be able to work with,” Willhouse said. “We have bonded so much through our passion for the arts and the teachings of this show.”
Zing Productions “is dedicated to bringing the arts to area residents through musical training, entertainment, and performance opportunities for local residents, regardless of age, level of experience, or financial status,” according to a press release. The company focuses on “community, children, the elderly, and the underserved.”
“The whole idea behind this production is to have (the young actors) involved in what goes on,” Chris Elio said, explaining that they contributed to choreography, movement and even some jokes and dialogue. “So it was a very collaborative process.”
Another important collaboration is between Zing Productions and Shiloh United Church of Christ. In a press release, Pastor Mary Schmotzer said Shiloh UCC is pleased to join Zing Productions in giving young people “a safe and affirming place” to discover their unique identities.
“I get the pleasure of singing ‘Day by Day,’ a song that is not just about following Jesus but about becoming a better person by spreading love and kindness,” Willhouse said. “We also have the opportunity of working in Shiloh Church, a treasure in our small town that accepts anyone no matter what.”
Justin Aurand is the musical director with band members Justin Gaspar, Carolyn Gatty, Christina Haverovich and Joseph La Marca. Maggie Stroop is the choreographer.
Cast members are Raven DePeal, Bennet Elio, Connor Elio, Riley-Katharine Elio, Meredith Fahringer, Joseph Hamati, Zachary Honabach, Joseph Lobos, Abbi Long, Maggie Stroop, Jeremiah Thompson and Allie Willhouse.
“They’re all friends, all of them, the whole cast,” Chris Elio said. “It’s a very togetherness type of thing, and I think that will reflect in the show.”
“It will be a joyful noise,” Brady said.