Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Godspell"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


Conceived and Originally Directed by John-Michael Tebelak
Music and New Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Directed by Scott Schwartz
Musical Staging by Christopher Gattellil

Scenic Designs by Scott Pask
Sound Designs by Mark Norfolk
Lighting Design by Rick Belzer
Costume Design by Fabio Toblini
Projection Design by Colleen and Bob Bonniol
Musical Direction, Orchestrations and Arrangements by Alex Lacamoire
Stage Manager Heather Schmuckler


Todd Buonoparte
Joseph J. Carney
Jessica Carter
Sharon Francis
Esteban Giron
Sarah Hubbard
Natalie Joy Johnson
Lauren Lebowitz
Sal Sabella
Michael Yuen


Nicklas Dickerson
Toby Godwin
Darren Lael
Jim O'Connell
Mark Pardy
Anne-Marie Tranchida

It's hard to count all the 84 working television sets (or is it only 64) that are stacked in an irregular wall at the back of the Shubert stage because of the distracting capering of the ten young performers gyrating, mugging, indicating, shouting and singing, shucking and jiving in front of them. Maybe there are 104. But just when your count gets to center stage, some moving figure will obscure the view and the count has to start all over again.
Oh, the signs out front say those distracting figures are re-creating a musical called "Godspell" that, 29 years ago, sought to make the message and the last days of Jesus vitally interesting to the previous century. But when counting all the television sets is more interesting than the message of the show --- despite the super-amplified power of the sound system --- what it looks like is a re-creation of an old light-show at The Ark.

It is indeed an energetic, inventive, enthusiastic young cast; they throw themselves into the work, energy-levels never flag, there is never a dull moment or a knife-edge pause between lines --- nor a shape or a through-line to anything they do. The show is dominated from the start by distracting technical paraphernalia that turn performers into irrelevant mechanical dolls, as though loudly --- very loudly --- proclaiming the death of the American musical and then crucifying it on a wall of boob-tubes. What look like black lollipops are pasted to the left cheeks of every performer, admitting openly that no one knows how to fill a house with naked voices anymore, and twice the action is projected, as it happens, onto onstage screens by means of hand held minicams, admitting that mere human figures on a stage are too small to mean anything. The message of this show is painfully clear: sitting at home with a clicker and a beer in your hand is a better way to experience "Godspell" than paying up to sixty bucks or so to experience it live. And sending the cast out into the lobby in the act-break to talk about the show is no real substitute for real human characters bringing theatrical truth onto the stage during the show.

Perhaps now you understand why I do not write reviews of shows I didn't like. I didn't pay to see this show, or to see "Annie"; why, then, do I feel I --- and the cast of "Godspell" that works so very hand --- was ripped off? Even though the second act has a vague story-line and some reflective moments, I think the people who left in the act-break got a better deal than I did. Even more than falling chandeliers or sinking ships, those 64 or 84 or maybe even 104 t-v sets --- every one of them working --- massively proclaim the dead-end demise of an American theatrical art form.

What a shitty way to end the year 2000...


"Godspell" (till 7 January)
265 Tremont Street, BOSTON
1(800)447-7400 1(888)889-8587

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide