BURRILLVILLE – It’s been more than a year since patrons have visited a historic community theater on East Avenue, which saw performances suddenly halted last March as the region shut down over fears of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
That’s finally set to change this month, when the Assembly Theatre will host the film premiere of Inspiration Performing Arts Company’s Godspell.
It may not be live theater just yet, but the venue’s soft opening will give a local audience a safe chance to view a performance filmed at the Assembly, also scheduled to be offered virtually to home viewers May 13 through May 17.
In Burrillville, the show will premiere on Sunday, May 16 at an event also scheduled to include a question and answer session with the cast and crew.
Inspirations, a nonprofit Massachusetts-based theater troupe that’s been traveling the country with performances for the past decade, has been working to offer those stuck at home a taste of theater even amid the pandemic. The group’s first virtual production, put together in collaboration with Advanced Production and Design, The Wizard of Oz, was streamed for fans in January.
For Godspell, a small cast of just 12 performers and a three-member production crew, filmed at the Burrillville theater.
“These talented performers not only worked hard on stage but also behind the scenes, doubling as both cast and crew members to keep our numbers as COVID safe as possible,” noted a post from Inspiration. “From stage management, director, music directors, choreographers, PR, costuming, sound, videography, and everything in between; our cast has put an extensive amount of time and effort into this production and we are so grateful for this talented group.”
The performance marks the 50th anniversary of Godspell, a musical parable loosely based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, set against a modern backdrop. Godspell was the first major musical theatre offering from three-time Grammy and Academy Award winner Stephen Schwartz, also known for Wicked, Pippin and Children of Eden. The play opened at the off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre, on May 17, 1971.
The online showing will also include a special performance from the original Broadway cast of the 2012 Godspell Revival at intermission.
The production was originally scheduled for release in early April, but was postponed by an outside virus exposure. Performers finally had their last day of live filming in Burrillville on Thursday, April 8.
But Burrillville patrons can get a little bit closer at an event May 16 that will follow safe guidelines for distancing.
“One of the best elements of theatre is the shared experience between the audience and the cast; having a room full of emotions and energy,” said Emily Garven, founder of IPAC. “We are so excited that though still virtual, we have the chance to present our production to a room full of people who can feel that energy and excitement for theater again.”
It’s been a long wait for theater lovers, including members of Patrons of the Assembly Theatre, the nonprofit group working to revitalize the historic, 354-seat venue.
The streaming party will be held Sunday, May 16 at 2 p.m. and will include raffles, decorative masks, cast interactions and Q&A, and a concession stand.
The streaming party will be open to the public to purchase tickets on Inspiration’s website. To reserve a spot for the event select the May 16 ticket date and use the code “ASSEMBLY” at checkout. The event has limited seating so advance ticket purchase is advised.
The event will also be streaming to the safety of homes seven times the week of, May 13-17. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased at www.inspirationperformingarts.com.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated from its original version to include ticket information.