Energetic ‘Godspell’ still has a few lessons to learn
- Written by Joanne Fistere
The original off-Broadway production of “Godspell” by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebalak premiered in 1971 with a cast of 10. It originated as project by drama students at Carnegie Mellon University and went on to be a long running world wide success. The story revolves around a small group of people who help Jesus Christ tell different parables by using a variety of games, storytelling techniques and a sundry blend of songs. The plot eventually evolves into the last supper, the crucifixion and ultimately Jesus' resurrection.
The current production of “Godspell” offered by Take Two Productions opened March 17th with a 10 member principle cast as well as an ensemble of 10. The cast of 20 is a bit overwhelming for the very small stage in the church hall at Third Baptist Church but they use the space well, for the most part. What works best is the absolute commitment and high energy of every member of this eclectic cast. This show is a great example of community theatre where you have a varied level of talents and experiences but everyone is giving their all and it brings the show together.
“Godspell” is a tough show under the best circumstances because it’s basically Jesus telling parables for the first act and his ultimate crucifixion and resurrection in the second act. This group does their best to make it work including bringing unsuspecting audience members on stage at a few points. But ultimately there are more weak spots than strong moments. Highlights for me are musical numbers “All For The Best” and “We Beseech Thee”. In the former Jesus (Jacob Schmidt) and Judas (Kelvin Urday) share a fun duet that engages the entire ensemble in a glorious counterpoint (when 20 people are having that much fun in front of you it’s impossible not to have some fun right along with them!). The latter, beautifully choreographed by ensemble member Cady Baily, is led by Bradley Fritz and ends up with the cast in a joyful final stage pose.
Sadly, director Chris Moore does the show a disservice a few times. Several scenes are blocked where focus is directed to the back of the house which forces the audience to either completely turn around in their seats or ignore the action. Additionally, a few very intimate and important moments take place on the floor of the auditorium at the foot of the stage and anyone sitting other than the front row misses all of that action. Also, while there are some very strong singers in the cast, music director Kenisha Kellum would have been smart to direct the weaker ones to stay in their range and not attempt notes well beyond their abilities.
I applaud Take Two Productions for their mission of “providing opportunities for individuals of all ages and races to explore and develop their creative talents through live, musical theater, and to make community connections through service to and financial support of lesser known, well-deserving charities.” Their production of “Godspell” is a good effort though it needs some work. Community theatre lovers will appreciate the energy and terrific commitment on stage.
“Godspell” with Take Two Productions runs through March 25th at the Johnson Hall of Third Baptist Church. Tickets and other information are available at the Take Two Producions web site.