Community creative collaboration

ahendrix@lsjournal.comAugust 7, 2014 

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    Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. each night through Aug. 9 and at 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 10 at Lee’s Summit Christian Church, 800 Tudor Road.

    Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors and may be purchased in advance at or at either of the Lee’s Summit Hy-Vee stores. Tickets also will be available at the door beginning an hour before each performance.

A piano plays a short melody as the chatter of performers fills the sanctuary at Lee’s Summit Christian Church. Director Phyllis Balagna waves her hands in the air to gather the group on stage.

Attentive eyes follow her lively expressions as she addresses the group. Balagna, who has directed and choreographed 35 shows, now has “Godspell” to add to the tally.

Summit Theatre Group is presenting the show this weekend.

“This show is a new journey and adventure for me. I’ve never directed ‘Godspell’ before, but the more we rehearse, the more I fall in love with the music,” Balagna said.

Harmonies build and echo as the cast rehearses “Day by Day.” For only four weeks the group has been rehearsing three times a week.

“For me, summer community theater should be a quick and fun journey. I know I don’t have an entire summer to devote to a show, and we all have busy lives outside of this. And this group has stepped it up.” Balagna said.

Busy community members like Kirby Asplund who plays Judas. Asplund, who has a marketing and communications company in Lee’s Summit, said the time management was a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

“The time put in is well spent,” he said. “The cast is wonderful. The cast is very committed to the show and it’s a great opportunity to work with Phyllis.”

At the end of “Day by Day,” Balagna praises her group for the beautiful sound, and the group moves to rehearse the next scene with community guest star and former Journal Publisher, John Beaudoin.

Each night the show features a different community guest star: Aug. 7 was attorney Carl Chinnery; Aug. 8, Mayor Randy Rhoads; Aug. 9, City Manager Steve Arbo, and Aug. 10, Beaudoin. The scene, like most of the show, is light and playful.

“Audience is a really big part of ‘Godspell.’ A small venue makes it super fun. There is a lot of audience participation like charades and pictionary,” assistant director Elisa Ali said.

Summit Theatre Group president Ben Martin said the company chose “Godspell” because of the opportunity to work with the Ministerial Alliance in Lee’s Summit.

“One of the missions of Summit Theatre Group is to always do at least one show that has a social message. With this show in particular, we’ve tried to create those connections to be of service to the community as well as entertaining,” Martin said.

This time, the group has performed musical numbers at area churches on Sundays.

The lead role, Jesus, is played by Brad Rackers. He said the phenomenal music of “Godspell” piqued his interest.

“This show has such a creative cast that has really come together. I think that you’re not going to see something like this anywhere else,” Rackers said.

Rackers recently directed “Godspell” at Lee’s Summit West.

Cast members as young as 9 years old fill the aisles to sing “Bless the Lord.” Balagna opened up the show to young people to allow for growth for the future.

“The main reasonI wanted to do this in my busy life was to help further the visibility and viability and relevance of theater in Lee’s Summit,” Balagna said.


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