8 PM November 25, 26 December 1,2,3
2 PM November 27
West Virginia State University Capitol Center Theater
123 Summers Street Charleston
Tickets: $15.00 Adults $8.00 Students/Seniors
Reservations/Group Rates 304-342-6522
When composer Mark Scarpelli and librettist Dan Kehde created their first rock opera MARY in 1996, neither of them expected to be still producing it twenty years later. “We were just writing the piece to see if we could” Kehde says. “It started with the last song and just grew from there.” At the time, the two were working on a teen production of “HAIR” at the legendary coffeehouse Common Grounds in downtown Charleston when the idea first hit them. Neither one of them remembers who came up with the initial concept.
“The first performance was less than an hour long,” Kehde recalls, “We added a fifteen minute intermission just to make it seem worthwhile.” Between the first and second year of performances, the duo added 17 new songs and began to flesh the piece out into the form it is now.
“We’re still revising it,” Scarpelli adds, “every year we see something that we need to revise or rewrite or re-stage. In twenty years, we’ve never done exactly the same show twice. Our casts have been very patient.”
The rock opera follows the life of Mary, mother of Jesus, during her nine month pregnancy with Jesus--from the first visit of the archangel Gabriel, through the birth of Christ. Starting as a confused and overwhelmed fourteen year old, Mary grows to finally accept her destiny, but not without a few stumbles along the way. “She starts off a typical teenager,” Kehde says laughing “she hates the way she looks, doesn’t understand the world and is a pretty basic work in progress.” That all changes when Gabriel asks her to be the mother of Jesus.
Interestingly enough, Mary isn’t the only one who’s pregnant on stage. Her aging cousin, Elizabeth, miraculously bears her son, John [later John the Baptist] around the same time. “One of the more poignant moments of the drama is when Elizabeth discovers that the baby she’s carrying is still alive within her.” After choreographer and ballet master Rob Royce joined the team in 2014, a small ballet was added to highlight Elizabeth’s birth. “Rob’s amazing,” Scarpelli adds,”he’s brought things out in this piece that we never could.”
The character of Herod has been onboard since the very beginning. “He’s the dark cloud on the horizon,” Kehde comments, “not just for the dramatic effect, but for the historical legitimacy.” In contrast, Joseph’s persona stumbles painfully through love and betrayal before coming to terms with his impossible destiny.
“This should be one of the easiest stories to portray and, instead, it’s been one of the most difficult.” Kehde concludes. “To keep all of these characters human when there’s such mythology surrounding all of it...”
“It’s still a work in progress,” Scarpelli adds, “but I think we’re close to getting it right.”
Mary, the Rock Opera features Devin Elliott as Mary, Jonathan Tucker as Joseph, Tanya Dillon-Page as Gabriel, Kim Javins as Elizabeth, Patrick Felton as Zechariah and K.W. Morrison as Herod; with a supporting cast of thirty and a 24 piece orchestra conducted by the composer. Performances are 8 pm November 25, 26, December 1,2,3 and 2 pm Sunday, November 27 at the WVSU Capitol Center, 123 Summers Street, Charleston. Tickets -- $15.00 for adults and $8.00 for students and seniors-- are available at the door or call 342-6522 for reservations.