I have spent the past thirty years working in the theatre. It's hard to believe, but it's true, I've never seen a production of Godspell. The original production of this Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak musical debuted on Broadway in 1972 and was subsequently turned into a movie starring Victor Garber as Jesus.
The new Broadway production, directed by Daniel Goldstein and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, is upbeat and exuberant. That aside, it is not without its grating moments. As Jesus, Hunter Parrish (star of TV’s “Weeds”) is certainly charming, good-looking and has a pleasant singing voice. But the way he was directed, he doesn't stop grinning until the last supper. We are then forced to make the extraordinary jump to the Crucifixion.
The ensemble is so perky you might confuse them for a runaway cast of “Up with People," but they are definitely talented. Uzo Aduba
beautifully rendered “By My Side” (music Peggy Gordon and lyrics Jay Hamburger) about the lengths she would go to for Jesus. Julia Mattison
(who was replacing Morgan James
in the performance I saw) did a saucy turn with “Turn Back, O Man.” The adorable Telly Leung
did a show-stopping series of impressions from famous movies. On “Learn Your Lessons Well” Leung even played the piano. Godspell
is chock full of current-day pop-culture references that give this musical telling of the Book of Matthew a modern day sensibility. Goldstein and his team have worked in Occupy Wall Street, Muammar Gaddafi’s death, Heidi Klum, Donald Trump, Steve Jobs, Lindsay Lohan, and even a joke about the other dual-theatre complex tenant, Schwartz’s Wicked.
Producing this show in the round seemed like a good idea. The audience is closer and interaction with the audience is easily facilitated. What didn’t work was spreading out the band throughout the audience. Andrew Keister
’s sound is a muddy mess with audience members straining to understand lyrics.
Having not seen Godspell
, but knowing the music and the premise, I pretty much knew what to expect. Something tells me I would have preferred the original production over this one. The beauty part about this show is its simplicity. That simplicity seems to get amped to a fevered pitch with this production and that simplicity disappears. Schwartz rapidly wrote Godspell
while in his early twenties. It stands to follow that Godspell is not nearly as substantial as his most recent endeavor, Wicked.
While this production may have enough cheese to get the Crucifixion sponsored by Kraft, it’s still a winner for family entertainment.
View production credits on IBDB.com
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