Imagine Productions' performance of "Godspell" will offer a fresh take on the musical, director Jack Petersen said.
It will open Thursday, March 8, at the Northland Performing Arts Center, 4411 Tamarack Blvd, Columbus.
Petersen, a Northland resident, is a veteran director who will make his debut with Imagine Productions.
He even promised a surprise ending, quite a trick given that the primary source of material for "Godspell" is the Gospel of Matthew.
"I love this company," Petersen said. "They are great people."
He also loves his cast of 14.
"They are just sweet and cooperative," Petersen said. "They are also smart people. I give them a concept and they do it."
With the exception of Jesus and John the Baptist, the actors all play characters with their own first names.
Patrick Schaefer, a Short North resident who portrays John the Baptist, said his younger brother played the same role in a high school production of "Godspell."
Schaefer said some people regarded the musical as blasphemous when it first came out in 1971, but he doubts audiences will feel that way about the Imagine Productions version.
"I think the way we handled this is more open and inviting," he said.
Elizabeth Murphy of Westerville plays Lizzy.
"I'm kind of one who is a little slow to pick up on things," Murphy said. "I'm naive and warm."
"I was very familiar with the original Broadway show," said Alison LeCompte, a cast member from German Village. "My mom was in it multiple times when she was my age. I get to kind of understand the community she felt."
This is LeCompte's first role with Imagine Productions.
"It's been really wonderful," she said.
"I'm kind of the comic relief," cast member Damon Barnett of Grandview Heights said. "I seem to be the butt of every joke."
This is Barnett's first time in "Godspell," although, he said, he once saw the musical in Dayton and realizes Petersen has taken a different approach with it.
"The staging has been very unique," Barnett said. "Some of the rowdier scenes have become a little more on the serious side."
East Columbus resident Dante DiNucci, who is part of the ensemble and also plays the "fatted calf that dies," said he has enjoyed the rehearsal process.
"It's been really good seeing everyone's character coming to life," he said. "It's still the same story line and the music is the same, but it's more amplified, more like rock songs."
"This is probably one of the best casts I've ever worked with," said Emma Farrenkopf of Gahanna, who responded to a Facebook casting call.
Farrenkopf said her character, also named Emma, has been fun to bring to life.
"She's very loud, very opinionated, but also has a kind, ditzy heart," she said.
The youngest member of the cast is Reagan Knapp, 10, of Pickerington.
"My parents thought it would be a good experience, and I agreed," she said.
Chipper Snow is music director.
He is joined on the production by choreographer Melissa Gould, stage manager Rachel Harper, assistant stage manager Melissa Herrera-Ortiz and production assistant Jessica Gould.
Performances at the center, 4411 Tamarack Blvd. in Columbus, will be at 8 p.m. March 8-10. A performance also is scheduled at 3 p.m. March 11.
Tickets, which cost $23, are available at www.imaginecolumbus.org.