Lodi Musical Theater is bringing Broadway’s ‘Godspell’ to Troupe Cabana Studios this month. Find out who the locals are behind this full-scale production that celebrates the emotions of Jesus Christ.
Colin LaValley gets new perspective on Christ
Q: Tell me about your role.
A: This kind of version of Jesus is a portrayal that we wanted to do to basically show the more compassionate, human side of Jesus … We wanted to show him when he’s sad, when he’s angry, to display different emotions of Jesus.
Q: What is it about this play that stands out to you?
A: Before this, I personally had not really thought about Jesus as a human, or that he felt emotions like any of us do. No matter who sees it — all different nationalities, religious backgrounds — they can take away something that was said. I believe a lot of his teachings were more than just how to live a Christian life, and also how to live amongst each other.
Q: Is there something that challenged you in this role?
A: Yes. This is actually my very first theater production. I’ve done show choir in the past, and I'm used to being on stage, but I had no experience (acting). Director Nicole Howton has done an excellent job showing me how I need to do (parts), what I need to be, what I need to come through.
Because it’s a very significant role, and I really wanted to do this, I had to basically work my outside schedule around the schedule for "Godspell." I had to cut a few classes from school and lower some of my work hours. Do I regret doing it? No, absolutely not. I enjoy and believe in what I’m doing and I hope that whoever sees this play will feel the same thing.
Q: Where did you get your musical experience?
A: I started singing in church at a very young age, about 7 or 8, and I also played piano. When you have three church services a week, you get a lot of practice.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: In this production, it's definitely Christ because of how in depth I’ve looked at his life, his ministry and his (place) in history. I think he has always been, if not recently become, one of my greatest inspirations personally.
— Lauren Nelson
Michael Nino plays the biggest betrayer
Q: Describe your character in Godspell.
A: I play Judas. If you know the Bible at all, he’s obviously the bad guy. Personally, I kind of like playing the bad guy. Nobody is perfect in this world. He betrays Jesus. At the end, like in the Bible, he’s left on stage with a rope.
My costume is a black V-neck and jean bottoms. We all have different colors. Of course Judas is in black.
Q: How do you practice for this role?
A: By spending a lot of time practicing. I even practice at home in front of a mirror, practicing facial expressions, trying to be as real as I can. I watched movies based on the gospel Matthew.
Q: What do your children think about you doing theater?
A: They think it’s cool. I’m kind of like a local celebrity sometimes. They don’t see that side of me at home. Only on stage. To them, it’s like, wow, a different person.
Q: What about your peers in the Fire District — what do they think?
A: Actually, I get a lot of support from them. They’re always excited to see a play. A couple of guys rascal me a little bit. Firemen are known as being strong tough guys and this guy’s doing theater.
Q: What is a play you would love to perform in?
A: "Les Miserable" or "Phantom of the Opera." I would love to play the phantom.
Q: What has been the best part of your summer?
A: Going to Disneyland with my wife. We don't’ take the kids. One time a year, we run the half-marathon there.
Q:Describe your dream hang-out session with your favorite actors Harrison Ford and Will Smith?
A: I think just to pick their brains and see what gets them motivated. What they do to prepare for roles. I consider myself an actor, but these guys are the top. I would ask: How do they get into character?
— Lauren Nelson
Jessica Griffin finds her sultry side
Q: What's your role?
A: I’m playing Sonia in this role. She’s actually one of the disciples in the first half, and in the second half she plays someone who is trying to detour Jesus. She’s a Pharisee. In the opening part, she has a song called "Turn Back." it's a bluesy number where she tries to seduce him pretty much. There is a turn of events during the second half.
Q: Describe the spin this play has on the Bible story?
A: It sticks closely to what you know about the crucifixion and Jesus' time on earth, but it’s a modernized version of the story. Certain things that were used back then will be used in a different way. Things that are common to us. It was really well directed by Nicole.
Q: Who should go see Godspell?"
A: I think everyone should. I really do. It’s for everybody because it’s not too risque. It’s down to earth, to where they can understand the teaching and what’s going on for the show. They really wouldn’t know what’s going on for the plot. It's something they can totally understand. When reminded of it, it will touch their hearts
Q: What has been the most challenging part of this role?
A: Portraying a disciple who is just learning the teachings. Because growing up as a Christian, you know the stories and parables. But as an actress, I have to revamp them.
Q: You sing a lot in the show. Is that something you really enjoy?
A: It’s always a plus to sing in the show. There are those shows where you don’t get to sing much; those are a little harder for me. It’s a fun thing and it keeps me on my toes.
Q: You're also assistant director. What is that like?
A: She (Nicole Howton) asked me, and I really love to direct; that’s really my desire. I love working with Nicole. She’s on top of her game. Learning from her is a plus.
— Lauren Nelson
Nicole Howton, the woman behind Lodi Musical Theater
For almost two decades, Nicole Howton has produced shows that delight and entertain the Lodi community.
She has directed a variety of musicals at Hutchins Street Square with the Lodi Musical Theater. Her most recent includes "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "West Side Story" and "South Pacific."
For the first time, Lodi Musical Theater will unveil a show at Troupe Cabana Studio, her performing arts business on Pine Street. The musical, "Godspell," will also have a live band accompanying the singing and dancing — another first for Lodi Musical Theater.
While raising three kids, Howton has balanced family with the strenuous task of producing shows with costumes, sets and large casts of actors and actresses.
For Howton, her childhood passions became a lifelong career. At the age of 5, she started dancing, and as an adult, she taught ballet and jazz for 22 years and recently started teaching Zumba. When she was 12 years old, she began singing and continues to teach private voice lessons.
Howton attended Brigham Young University, where she earned a degree in musical dance theater with an emphasis in choreography.
Throughout her career, she has toured as a dancer globally and even took some of her youth Troupe Cabana Studios productions around the world.
Now, she spends her days shimmying, salsaing and sambaing across her Troupe Cabana Studio while leading Zumba classes. She teaches on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday and is up to 12 classes a week.
Howton lives in Lodi with her husband, Todd, who also works with Lodi Musical Theater. She also has three children, Taylor, Jenna and Triston.
— Maggie Creamer