By Ronnie Ruff
Way back in 1970 John Michael Tebelak, Godspell’s writer, attended Easter Sunday church services and left feeling depressed. He was quoted at the time as “feeling the stone was being rolled to close the tomb instead of opening it.” On the way home, the police stopped him and searched for drugs because of his long hair. He thus received his inspiration for Godspell. Songwriter Stephen Schwartz’s music and lyrics for Godspell have withstood the test of time. He was the first composer-lyricist to have three successful Broadway shows running simultaneously: Godspell, Pippin, and The Magic Show. His newest show Wicked is a major success and undoubtedly has lead to renewed interest in Godspell. Noble Heart’s interpretation of Godspell is theatre with a wonderful, enthusiastic feel that takes the production to another level. It is common knowledge that smaller theatre companies have small budgets. However, many of the smaller companies are fortunate to have performers that give their all to the production, thereby overcoming budgetary shortcomings. Such is the case with this production in the Southern Maryland town of Indian Head, where the talent within the cast makes this a must see production.
The musical is an alternative presentation of Christ’s parables intertwined with Stephen Schwartz’s songs and could possibly be viewed as a mirror of today’s popular Christian Rock scene. Christ’s teachings become quirky little skits that are funny as well as thought provoking, and the vocal performances which each spotlight a different cast member are beautifully done. Uplifting songs and slapstick humor will provide entertainment even for those who may normally be uncomfortable with religious material. From the opening number it is obvious that the cast is not only talented, but also totally absorbed in the material. Genevieve James does a beautiful rendition of By My Side and Alex Zavistovich delivers We Beseech Thee with wonderful enthusiasm. (In Godspell, aside from Jesus and John the Baptist, cast members are not supposed to represent any particular disciple.) Over the years Godspell has been performed and interpreted numerous times and ways, always a bit differently than before, and this production is certainly no different. Some of the new lines were downright funny, I chuckled to myself more than once at some of the lines delivered by Diana Davis, who gives us a perfect performance of Learn Your Lessons Well. In fact all of the vocal performances are alive and exciting. Craig Hower’s direction of the show allowed for little bits of improvisation that I found amusing and enjoyable. Since Godspell can be performed on almost any stage the urban parking lot set design was perfect. This production spills into the audience quite often and the set was never a hindrance or distraction. Song renditions were far better than Mike Leggit’s sound design should have allowed. The crucifixion scene had Director Craig Hower’s Jesus all but silenced by the overwhelming keyboards. No matter, the cast launches into one more glorious rendition of of Day By Day and brings the show to a harmonious close. If you want to experience great theatre while taking a serene drive through the beautiful Southern Maryland countryside Noble Heart’s production of Godspell definitely is worth the drive.
Godspell Opens July 29th, 2005 Fridays and Saturdays, 8 PM: July 29, August 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, Sundays, 3 PM: July 31, August 7, 14, 21, 28 $18 for adults; $15 for seniors and students.
Produced by NobleHeart, a Repertory Company