See thee more clearly, love thee more dearly – Kelly’s Godspell review

by Kelly, Guest Services Manager

Prepare ye the way of a Broadway sensation! This week, the New York Guest team of Kelly & Kelly had the chance to see a preview performance of the new revival production of “Godspell” at the Circle in the Square Theatre on 51st Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue.

“Godspell” originally opened on Broadway in 1976, and ran a total of 527 performances. Though it has been performed countless times across the country in schools, regional theatres, and Off-Broadway, this production marks the show’s return to the Broadway stage. With music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (known to most as the composer of “Godspell’s” now next-door-neighbor “Wicked”), choreography by Christopher Gattelli (who recently won acclaim as the choreographer for “Newsies” at Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey), and directed by Daniel Goldstein (making his Broadway directorial debut), “Godspell” is spreading its message of love and joy to a new generation.

The structure of the show is a series of parables based on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (with a brief glimpse into the Passion of Christ at the end of the show) interspersed with songs in a variety of musical styles ranging from gospel, rap, a capella, vaudeville, and folk to even rap. Memorable songs include “All Good Gifts,” “Beautiful City,” “All for the Best,” and of course…the iconic “Day By Day.” Though the show relies on the Gospels for plot, do not mistake this for strictly a “religious” show. The cast and creative team are emphatic about the fact that this show is a celebration – of community, acceptance, joy, and most of all…love.

I cannot express enough that this is a completely new and fresh take on the show, which I have seen in the past regionally. This production employs many inventive ways of storytelling – using different theatre and musical techniques to get across the story’s messages. The cast, led by Hunter Parrish (from the TV show “Weeds”) as Jesus, have built these stories from the ground up, making new discoveries each night. Each cast member is featured and is allowed to let their strengths show – they are all obviously brilliant singers with wide ranges of musical style ability, but they were also able to utilize impressions, physicality, and even dance to bring these stories to a new level. Broadway veteran Telly Leung, who has been on Broadway in several different shows as well as the 2006 Papermill Playhouse production of “Godspell,” and Lindsay Mendez (Jan in the recent Broadway revival of “Grease”) are two members of the cast that stood out with their particular solo songs, though I cannot say enough good things about the cast as a whole – after a landmark open casting call that brought thousands of hopefuls to Times Square to audition, there is not one single member of the “Godspell” cast that will disappoint.

The producers of “Godspell” waited two years for the use of the Circle in the Square theatre, which is in fact a theatre in the round (which means the audience surrounds the stage on all sides and the action is played to everyone instead of straight out to one vantage point.) This was a calculated risk that in my opinion has an extremely sweet payoff, as this is the perfect location for this production. Every audience member sees a slightly different show based on how they’re viewing the stage (don’t be alarmed – this is a GOOD thing – every seat in this theatre is a great seat and trust me – you won’t miss anything!), and you could see the show again and again (like I hope to) and catch something different each time. The theatre is also rigged with several surprises – the band is seated amongst the audience (where audience members will be called upon for some onstage help at times), and the stage literally opens up in places to allow the actors access to things I don’t want to spoil for you (let’s just say Jesus actually walks on water and the cast spends a song jumping for joy with some entertaining assistance). To me, this production shows the bright future of Broadway – a future where caring, smart, inventive lovers of the theatre will do what some recent productions that shall remain nameless tried to do and failed.

Run…do not walk…to see this show. I laughed (a lot), I cried (more than I care to admit), and most of all…I loved. To quote lyrics that cast member Telly Leung sings in the song “All Good Gifts” – “thank you for love.” Thank you, cast of “Godspell” – for casting your spell of love on us all.

Unfortunately Godspell closed on June 24th, 2012 and we will miss it more than we can say!

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Filed under Broadway Review, Out on the Town

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