November 19th, 2011, matinee performance
This past November, I had the pleasure of seeing the new Broadway revival of Godspell, which recently celebrated its 100th performance on February 3rd. Originally opening off-Broadway in 1971, Godspell is based on the gospel according to Matthew and relays the teachings of Jesus Christ through a series of musical parables.
Background: Before I saw Godspell, I did something that I never do before I see a show: I read the reviews. I have no idea what possessed me to do this since I rarely agree with reviews and therefore find them to be unhelpful. Charles Isherwood of the NY Times compared Godspell to “being trapped in a summer camp rec room with a bunch of kids who have been a little too reckless with the Red Bull”. Really, Mr. Isherwood? Because that statement is not only inaccurate, but also highly insulting to a group of exceptionally talented, professional actors. Luckily, the cast of Godspell is far more creative than Mr. Isherwood was with his choice of words. Lesson learned: don’t bother with reviews.
Comments: Godspell is a unique theatre experience for many reasons. A small, intimate ‘theatre in the round’, the Circle in the Square Theatre is an ideal location for a show like Godspell that involves audience members in the story telling process. Audience participation in games such as Pictionary and cast members who mingle with the audience during intermission make for a theatre experience far more intimate than other Broadway performances. Further, members of the orchestra are scattered throughout the audience and the book has been revised to include references to many ‘current events’. For a musical that was written forty years ago, this show feels very relevant and modern.
Perhaps the best part of Godspell is the multi-talented cast with their powerful vocals and boundless energy. Since the previously mentioned reviewer used a food analogy to describe the performers, I would like to provide my own food analogy. The cast is like a perfectly baked apple pie with just the right amounts of cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, each ingredient complimenting the other and making the final product DELICIOUS! In other words, the Godspell creative team casted ten performers who: 1.) have wonderful chemistry together as an ensemble (the perfect recipe) 2.) look like they are having the best time on stage 3.) can SING (note the capital letters) and 4.) give a high energy performance without going over the top as Mr. Isherwood suggested. Further, the cast has taken a collection of well-known songs that have been performed for 40+ years and really made them their own. Each musical performance sounds familiar, yet new and fresh at the same time! The cast album is a must-have!
The entire cast was exceptional, but I especially loved performances by:
**Telly Leung: First of all, I love his name. I saw Telly’s vlog on broadway.com before I ever heard him sing and his vlog was what originally got me interested in seeing Godspell. After seeing Godspell, Telly Leung is one of my new favorite Broadway actors. Let me share some adjectives that describe his amazing singing voice: Beautiful. Flawless. Serene. Calming (as in ‘could cure a migraine’ calming). Rich. His rendition of “All Good Gifts” was one of my favorite performances.
**Lindsay Mendez: I saw Lindsay in the revival of Grease a few years ago as Jan, but her performance of “Bless the Lord” showed off her talent much more than “Mooning” and “It’s Raining on Prom Night”. This girl can SING.
**Morgan James: I love it when I go to a show and see an actor who is unknown to me perform and be totally amazed. After seeing Morgan perform, I thought, “who is this girl?” Her performance of “Turn Back, O Man” was amazing and I have a feeling that we will be seeing a lot more of her in the future. I hope so anyway!
**Even if you’ve seen Godspell in the past, this revival is worth checking out.
**Go see Godspell
**Buy the cast album