This past weekend I attended the 2012 revival version of Godspell, produced by the Port Tobacco Players. Conceived and originally directed by John-Michael Tebelak and featuring a score by Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the music for some other Broadway musicals, Wicked, Pocahontas and The Prince of Egypt. Godspell was a huge hit when it opened Off Broadway over 40 years ago. Some of the songs have been modernized a bit since, but still stand true to the original formula of a series of parabals based on the Gospel of Matthew.
Having spent my youth being carted off to Sunday school, I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy being “preached to” in a musical. So, to keep myself well balanced and less biased, I decided to take a couple of friends to the show with me opening night. I brought one of my theatre kids and a good friend whose favorite show of all time is none other than Godspell.
…a big accomplishment that PTP, the cast and crew should be proud of.
At first glance, the set intrigued me, set entirely in a huge attic, there were several costumes pieces and tons of props that the actors were able to cleverly integrate into the scenes, which made it fun and comical at times, especially considering some of the modern-day references. Each character had their own personality and some of the costuming was whimsical and allowed a chuckle. Jesus wore a Boy Scout uniform!I found the first real commanding performance was by Judas, played by Patrick Pruitt. His “Prepare Ye” was powerful and made me sit up in my seat. I was a little nervous watching all of the water hit the floor as he baptized Jesus on stage. But, before I even realized, another actor had cleaned it amongst dance moves.
And, my Lord (every pun intended!) the dancing was worthy of its’ own praise! I must proclaim that if director/choreographer Ben Simpson does not receive a choreography award for this show, it will be a sin! The ensemble dances alone were worth the ticket price! They were amazing and flawless. I dare the audience to try to name all of the fun dances in the musical number for “Save the People.” And, they were so cleverly integrated into the song and had the audience roaring with laughter. It was a masterpiece of dance and song and perfectly timed by the entire cast. There was also the use of cast members as props during the song “All The Best” that was done quite nicely.Some standout performances were “Day By Day,” one of the more recognizable songs from the show, sang wonderfully by high school senior, Kaitlin Harbin. Then, a fun performance of “Turn Back, O Man” by Sarah Koon, who had some great improvisational interaction with the audience. “By My Side” was one of my favorites, lead by Angelina O’ Leary. “Beautiful City” was a nice ensemble piece during the Last Supper scene.
I found my dreading the fate of Jesus, played wide-eyed and heart-felt by Brian Merritt, who resembles a young Steven Weber. I kept looking at him thinking, “Man, he looks like that guy from Wings. But, with much cooler hair!”
Bottom line is, if kids had the opportunity to learn about the bible stories this way, they may actually enjoy it. And, knowing the stories they way I did, growing up Catholic, I was in awe of how fun they made the stories come to life. And, regardless of your belief or faith, you take the human lessons from this show. It’s actually not there to preach about God. It reminds us of our humanities, our imperfections, fears and hopes of forgiveness from those we may wrong.
I walked in half expecting to be a little bored. I walked out a fan. That’s a big accomplishment that PTP, the cast and crew should be proud of.
Running Time: Two Hours with one intermission.
Godspell runs through October 12, 2014 at Port Tobacco Players located at 508 Charles St, La Plata, MD 20646. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.