By DAVID MUNNELL
Originally produced in 1971, “Godspell” is a retelling of the Book of Matthew from the Bible, which tells of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.
At the time, the show was up against “Jesus Christ Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. However, while “JCS” is a gritty hard-rock odyssey, “Godspell” is Jesus’ story if the hippies had gotten a hold of the Good Book. For the most part, it’s a feel-good romp told through parables from the New Testament.
“Godspell” is one of those shows that can be conceptualized in dramatically different ways. The movie has Jesus’ crucifixion in a junkyard, while one production I was privy to had the crucifixion on the goalpost of a football field.
The possibilities are endless.
Stage Left Players are putting their own spin on the musical, in a production that opens this weekend.
The action takes place in what seems to be a back alley playground complete with a sliding board. It’s a fun translation.
The entire show is made by the ensemble who have no character names except for Jesus, played by co-director Reed Worth. The rest of the cast is played by Connor Bezeredi, Allison Dolphin, Carly Ellis, Christina Fonner, Matt Malloy, Natalie Martzial, Kasey Sanor, Kathi Steeb, Jacob Ward, Ashley Whited, Sidni Worth and co-director Nathan Kuhns. Each actor performs his or her own song outstandingly and the scenes that accompany them are hysterical.
Not to be overshadowed, music director Jodine Pilmer handles the music in this show fabulously as each actor impressively belts and riffs with abandon the entire night.
This is a solidly performed piece of musical theater and the cast looks like they’re having a blast.
While the show is fantastic all around, the biggest drawbacks are the co-directors Reed and Kuhns as Jesus and Judas respectively.
Reed’s Jesus is vocally impressive, but he seems to have forgotten to act the role as well. Act II’s “Alas for You” should be an accusatory sensation as Jesus verbally attacks his disciples and the audience. Instead, it turns into a stroll onstage with Reed basically wagging his finger impotently in disapproval.
Kuhn as Judas is underwhelming and can’t seem to keep up with the choreography. The choreographer is also Reed.
Perhaps it would have been wiser to cast two other actors or to have a separate director instead of stretching these two individuals so thin.
What the two leads lack in energy, though, the rest of the cast makes up for fervently.
Steeb’s “O, Bless the Lord, My Soul” rips the stage apart so completely that I’m surprised there’s even a set left, and Bezeredi, Malloy and Ward’s haunting “On the Willows” left me with goose- bumps. This cast’s energy made me want to jump up and sing along with them.
“Godspell” is one of those shows that always seems to be playing somewhere within the theater community, but this production is one of the best versions I’ve seen to date.