|Halleluiah! It’s the gospel according to Stephen Schwartz at the Knightsbridge Theatre in the slightly updated version of Godspell. |
A rockin’ sexy Jesus (Sterling Sulieman), with the aid of John the Baptist (Rene Guerrero), appears to his new disciples, Zach, Kelly, Jason, Maria, Talo, Cloie, Tracy, and Jenny (Yes, they sound more like multi-ethnic Mouseketeers than disciples, but whatever) to preach the word of God. They act out parables from the bible with music, corny jokes and slapstick. It’s a rock opera about loving one another, a Sunday afternoon message for a Saturday night.
John the Baptist announces His arrival in song with “Prepare Ye,” a church favorite. The cast sings and dances all evening until Judas (Guerrero again) betrays his friend, and Jesus must face his inevitable fate.
Spoiler Alert: Jesus dies on a cross, but comes back to life three days later. He really only sticks around for one more closing song, but it’s a much more hopeful, uplifting ending.
Godspell is a musical extravaganza. It’s a big production for a small theatre, but it works due to the talent and exuberant cast of cute young actors.
Each of the cast members gets a moment to shine; Zach Bandler beat-boxes, Maria Lee works the room with a sultry dance, Cloie Wyatt Taylor gyrates, Jason B. Hightower gets some good laughs, Talo Silveyra, Tracy Thomas, Kelly Boczek are all highlighted, but the showstopper is Jenny Weaver’s rendition of the show’s most famous number, “Day by Day.” It’s an emotional moment.
There are several moments of powerful emotion; conductor and keyboard player Jan Roper and the band play “On the Willows,” as Jesus wipes away the tears of his disciples before his execution. It’s a Kleenex grabber.
One caveat about the show: If you’re a Christian, Godspell can be a moving experience, but if you subscribe to another religion, or none at all, it may not be the show for you. The jokes will seem cornier, and the music will seem cloying. Way too much attention is given to hell (a concept that I don’t even think many Christians still believe in). There’s a mixed message when Maria slinks through the audience in a cabaret number, but then is chastised for her overt sexuality. It’s a scintillating scene that judges the audience for enjoying it (maybe there can’t be a show about Christianity without hypocrisy).
Director Chuck McCollum does a fair job. Special attention must be paid to choreographer Allison Bibicoff for orchestrating all the action on such a small space.
It is way more fun than church, and, if you miss the part where they pass around the collection plate, you can always donate to the theatre.
- Mike Buzzelli
Photos courtesy of the production
(Godspell runs from June 6 to July 7 at the Knightsbridge Theatre, 1944 Riverside Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90039)