Starring: Ben Stoll; Junior Musical Theater Major Shines
Junior musical theatre major Ben Stoll is flying high these days. He recently starred in the Forbes Center’s Studio Production of Godspell, where he played Jesus, the lead role and the “most meaningful” he has played in his young career thus far.
Stoll was also one of eight students who took the stage with musical theatre icon Patti LuPone when she performed her new concert “COULDA, WOULDA, SHOULDA … played that role” at the Forbes Center in September. Stoll sang choral parts on “Trouble” and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”
“Both working and performing with Miss LuPone met and exceeded my expectations. She is truly a master in the field, and it was both enlightening and awe-inspiring to watch her work,” exclaims Stoll.
Stoll says his favorite part in working with Miss LuPone was in rehearsal when she sang “Sleepy Man” from The Robber Bridegroom, and she invited the musical theatre students to “gather around the piano with her to learn it.” Stoll reveals that during the course of singing and improvising harmonies, “she was moved to tears … an indescribably wonderful moment.”
Following the rehearsal, musical theatre coordinator Kate Arecchi helped the students learn their parts in preparation for performing the song with Miss LuPone during her actual performance. According to Stoll, it was live onstage that Miss LuPone “again grew emotional and gave each of us a hug.” Stoll says, “To be able to say that I was hugged by Patti LuPone onstage is pretty much fantastic. It was an experience I will never forget.”
Stoll grew up just down the road from Harrisonburg in Waynesboro. He attended school across the street from the Blackfriar’s Playhouse, where he was introduced to the world of professional theatre. Stoll says participating in community theatre musicals from “elementary school on” sparked a love for the field.
Stoll was hooked on JMU after touring the campus and seeing the Forbes Center. During his studies, he met fellow students and faculty, including Arecchi. Stoll considers Arecchi a director, but also a friend, and describes her as “passionate, honest and so incredibly helpful.”
Arecchi is certainly glad to have Stoll as part of the program. She says, “He is a strong positive presence in the collaborative process. He is a generous leader and a gifted artist and scholar.”
Stoll, who admittedly spends a lot of time busy with theatre performances, is highly motivated to learn. He is in the Honors Program and likes to take 19-20 credit hours per semester. Stoll is double-majoring in English and theatre and dance with a concentration in musical theatre. He is also involved with InterVarsity, a Christian organization on campus.
Stoll considers himself “blessed” to be part of the musical theatre program. In addition to playing Jesus in Godspell, Stoll acted in the studio productions of Lucky Stiff and Awake and Sing as well as the main stage performances of Romeo and Juliet and Sweeney Todd.
Stoll is performing in From Here … to Broadway … and Beyond: A Musical Theatre Revue in October, and he looks forward to taking a playwriting class next semester. As for Stoll’s future beyond JMU, Stoll says, “I need to do something in which I am using my voice.”