Chaplain takes on Broadway

 Several Walt Disney movies have been transformed for the Broadway stage, including “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid.”

The next Disney classic to get the theater treatment will be “Pinocchio,” set to premiere in New York this summer.

At the front of the cast is Eastern’s own chaplain, Dr. Joe Modica.

Modica will be playing the role of Geppetto, the woodcarver who creates Pinocchio and wishes on a star for him to become a real boy.

Modica was singled out over Spring Break by director S. Howbiz when Modica wandered into a rehearsal at the Academy of Music and began to spontaneously recite Scripture on stage.

“I knew the guy had talent the minute he started quoting 1 Corinthians 13,” Howbiz said. “When I asked him to sing, he did this wonderful rendition of ‘Jesus Loves Me’ that made tears come to my eyes. That was when I knew he’d be a great Geppetto.”

As soon as he was cast for the part, Modica was thrust into rehearsals, having to play catch-up with a cast that had been practicing since December 2007.

Fortunately, Modica needed little help to perfect his role.

“I saw ‘Pinocchio’ the movie many times as I was growing up, and the character of Geppetto was always one that fascinated me,” Modica said. “Geppetto is very similar to the father of the prodigal son in that he has faith that his son will be a good boy, so he never gives up on him.”

Since Howbiz insisted that Modica get some official training, the chaplain turned to music professor Teresa Moyer for personal coaching through the lyrics.

“He hardly needs the help,” Moyer said. “His unique, monotone style of singing is spot-on for his interpretation of the character.”

Even with rehearsals and private lessons every weekend, Modica still finds time to teach his New Testament class.

The students in the class were told weeks ago about Modica’s role in the musical, but it has taken until now for the news to set in.

“At first, I was shocked,” first-year John Gideon said. “But then I thought about it and said, ‘Yeah, he really would make a good Geppetto’.”

With the first performance only months away, Modica is hard at work perfecting his role, but he is extremely excited for the show.

“It will be a version of the play no one has ever seen before, and I hope lots of Eastern students come,” Modica said. “Just not on a Wednesday.Don’t skip chapel for Broadway.”

Editor’s Note: As this issue was going to press, it was announced that senior Tommy McGrady will be acting as Modica’s understudy for the performance of “Pinocchio.”

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