|Lighting the Way for CandleDancing - from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Weekend Magazine, Friday April 16th|
....In CandleDancing a Benedictine priest listens to a troubled choirboy whose passionate stream-of-consciousness writings can be traced to the words of medieval mystic and proto-feminist Julian of Norwich. Apparent miracles are attributed either to the boy, the spirit he's channeling or maybe a higher power; and the young, scholarly priest seeks scientific verification to corroborate the supernatural claim. A tyrannical church hierarchy, however, deviously squelches the boy's teachings and removes the priest from power.
Although it's billed as a "medieval musical", the only thing medieval about the modern drama is the inspiration of the contemporary score and requiem written for "CandleDancing" by London composer Robert Hugill.
Ciongoli-Koepfinger began work on the ambitious project in 1992 and held a staged reading of the work-in-progress last year at The Acting Company. She located Hugill through the Internet and the collaborated on the music for 18 months via e-mail.
"I had two thoughts about the script when I read it," says Hugill, a full-time computer programmer and part-time composer and vocalist, in town this week for the who's world premiere. "It was like nothing I had ever read before. I wasn't sure how it would work as a play, but in the places where she wanted music, I thought it would make brilliant theater. I started having all these visual pictures of how it might go"
The voices in Hugill's head came from a choir that could be gathered to articulate his vision of a new requiem Mass based on chants common in the church during the Middle Ages. Incidental music used throughout the play is culled from the requiem, dramatically performed during an authentic funeral Mass that opens the second act.
Stephen Steinbeiser, music director for Duquesne University's campus ministry oversees the music of "CandleDancing" and ... a 12-member choir of local singers. Gemini Theatre's Denny Martin, a monk in earlier calling, is director.
In Wednesday's preview performance, the ambitious scope of the project and the magnitude of its story ... several inspired performances lit the way for "CandleDancing"
Early in the first Act Cheryl Esposito and G. Michael D'Millo share a brillian a cappella duet as the spirit of Julian of Norwich and the choir boy, Will of God. Montreal's Elias-Christos Varoutsos provides much of the momentum as the passionate young priest, and Ray Schafer and Josie Carey give strong performances as strong-willed church officials.
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