Reviewed by Miriam F. d'Amato
Exuberant! Exhilarating! Melodious! Exciting! Gorgeous! I was so caught up in this production of "Godspell" by the Winthrop Playmakers' that I didn't remember to make any notes until the intermission, when I hurriedly scribbled down adjectives on my program. How do they do it? In this small (180-seat) theatre, producers Pam Racicot and Richard Parrella have mounted a musical that rivals any I've seen on professional "big" stages. The seventeen cast members filled the stage and sometimes the center aisle with wonderful singing and dancing and with contagious energy. And I do mean contagious --- the audience clapped along with the cast in some of the numbers and gave them a long, loud ovation when it was over.
Director/Choreographer Mark Usher hails from Dublin (Ireland) and is making his debut in America with this "Godspell." His creative choreography (don't miss the tap dance!) is crisp, his pacing impeccable. His comic timing is right on the money, and the scene where each individual bids farewell to Jesus is poignant and tender. Music director Alexa Vogelzang, who did "Nunsense" at Playmakers last year, gave each song its due-the lovely melodies like "Day by Day" and "On The Willows," the dynamic "Tower of Babble" and "Learn Your Lessons Well"-the sparkling, the vigorous, the spirited-you fill in the names.
Chad Flahive's marvelous set was Park Street Station, given two levels to meet the demands of the show and a third platform in the rear for the three-piece orchestra. Cindi Macaudda's costumes were ingenious-jackets doffed for sweatshirts identifying Socrates, Martin Luther, et al., that were later doffed for glittery or conservative or casual dress. Frankly, I was so caught up in the show that I didn't make enough notes. Nor did I realize until almost the end of the first act how wonderfully effective was Scott Shiller's lighting design. Everything fit together so well that I fell happily under the spell that real theatre radiates when it's done with skill and imagination.
Michael Gonzalez (Jesus) and Wayne Frische (John the Baptist/Judas) are magnetic. Gonzalez was merry, solemn, sincere, compassionate-no wonder he won over this assorted group of people. When Frische, dressed in black and unbelievably tall and slim, delivered "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord," he hushed the house both times.
How to give credit to the rest of the cast? So many wonderful voices, so much exciting dance. You'll have to see it, that's all. Perhaps I should have said it earlier: This is not, I thought, my kind of show. I steer clear of musicals I expect to be brassy and thumpingly loud, shows that contain more noise than music. But this "Godspell" is everyone's kind of show. Go and have a wonderful time.