Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Godspell"

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entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"Godspell"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Turtle Lane's current show is "Godspell" with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by John-Michael Tebelak, originally opened Off-Broadway on May 17, 1971. It is a loose account of the life and death of Christ and is structured as a continuous stream of stories, told through parables, many taken from the Gospel According to St. Matthew and St. Luke. The show lives on in the minds of many as one of the "hippie" musicals and is performed in two acts. Also "Godspell" is the Old English spelling of the word, gospel. The show is sketch-like in nature and is particularly suited to improvisation and ad-libs. Keeping Tebelak's basic structure but updating the pop references and language, the show comes humanly alive in a new production. The joyous contemporary piece of musical theatre will be a passionate new reflection on the parables of Jesus. "Godspell's timeless message has always been about finding your quiet, unshakable faith amid a very loud, very cold, very shallow modern world. The poignant and comic moments are mixed together wonderfully by Lisa Rafferty. She assembles a 10 member cast to fit all these roles while musical director Kaley Sullivan not only taught the different style of songs to the cast but also plays lead keyboard while she conducts a 4 piece orchestra. Jason Hair Wynn not only taught the dances including soft shoe, tap and jazz but has all cast members doing the routines in perfect unison. This show is rewarded with a spontaneous standing ovation at the close of the evening.

The playground set is by Paul Perry, and the colorful costumes are by Richard Itczak. The Broadway style lighting is by Michael Clark Wonson. When the character of Judas comes through Michael has red lights show the evilness of the character so the audience realizes he is no longer John, the Baptist.Chad Moores stars as Jesus and is beautifully cast in this role. Clad in a Superman shirt, one Jesus' most powerful numbers is "Alas for You" where the words "This nation, this generation shall bear the guilt of it all! Alas, alas, alas for you! Blind fools!!" which rings true for the world today as it did back in biblical times and in the 1970's when the show was first written. His first song is "Save the People" where the cast dances around him. The Last Supper tableau and the death scene are beautifully portrayed not leaving a dry eye in the house, including mine. Jason Hair Wynn plays Jesus at alternating performances.(Hopefully I can return to catch him in this show as well as two other alternate performers Jake Robertson and Erin Beaber.) The opening Philosophers section has beautiful harmonies in it and is wonderfully performed while they sing their individual parts first and then in harmony later on. Lisa opens the show with the cast clad in navy blue warm up suits with hoods on them, also having the philosophers names on them so the audience knows who is who.

Lisa gives all her performers their moments to shine in this show. The first act is vaudevillian while the second act becomes somber after "Turn Back O Man".Todd Sandstrom as John the Baptist sings "Prepare Ye" with his powerful gospel voice as he enters through the audience. He later becomes Judas where he and Chad stop the show with the comic duet "All For the Best" done in counterpoint while the cast dances in this scene. It is a soft shoe and jazz type dance. "Day by Day" is given a lovely rendition by Angela Richardson with her powerful voice where the disciples learn how to share with one another. She also plays Socrates and sings "O Man of Athens". A fantastic group dance occurs as pretty petite spitfire Hannah Shihdanian belts out "Bless the Lord". A rousing number is "We Beseech Thee" with a dynamite dance and lead vocals by Tim McShea. The betrayal scene is stunning, too. "By My Side" is a dynamic touching duet by Stacy Whelan, a cute brunette and Nicole Vander Laan, a statuesque redhead who also sings "Learn Your Lessons Well"On the Willows is a tear jerker song by Kaley and the orchestra during the Last Supper as Jesus says goodbye to each of his disciples. My favorite song in the show,"Turn Back O Man" is a show stopper in the second act belted out by Amy Fichera, a sexy brunette. She enters through the audience and shook her boobs in my face during this song. She is hilarious as are Tom Koen who just turned 21 with many clever ad libs and Conor who plays a dumb male blond, naive bumpkin in this show. Conor's strong tenor voice soars off the charts in "All Good Gifts" while Tom sings "Light of the World" to end Act 1. "Long Live God" and "Prepare Ye" done in counterpoint is extremely poignant as Jesus is crucified on the fence. The show's ending will leave you emotionally drained at its intensity but uplifted because Jesus left us hope for the future. In these trying times who could ask for anything better for the world. So for a splendid production of Godspell, be sure to catch this version at Turtle Lane Playhouse.

"Godspell" (26 November - 30 December)
TURTLE LANE PLAYHOUSE
283 Melrose Street. NEWTON MA
1(617)244-0169

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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