Step right up folks and see this side show circus called GODSPELL starring Jesus (a not very convincing Hunter Parish) walking on water, doing a cartwheel and strutting with straw hat and cane sharing his parables with his tribe of young enthusiastic fellow cast members – his Kingdom of Clowns – in Daniel Goldstein’s look alike and sound alike animated cartoon version of this 1971 musical created by John-Michael Tebelak and the Academy and Grammy Award winning Stephen Schwartz with bouncy jump and stomp choreography by Christopher Gattelli. It’s organized chaos at best and God-awful at its worst.
Slapstick Holy Lessons in how we should treat each other. Love and peace and kindness are illustrated in song after song after repetitious song. Mr. Goldstein uses every trick possible to update GODSPELL to be pertinent today – texting, audience participation, Newt and Lindsay, ukuleles, trampolines, Facebook, charades, and a very tiny cup of free wine during intermission. I kept looking for a bag of peanuts being hawked in the aisles when the actors weren’t running up and down them.
The surround sound by Andrew Keister is surprising good considering the musicians are scattered around the arena midway up with the pianist (who seemed to be having a great time) at the apron of the in the round stage.
There are some standout performances. Anna Maria Perez de Tagle gets to sing the shows most famous song – “Day by Day”, Celisse Henderson’s “Learn Your Lessons Well and Lidsay Mendez’s “Bless the Lord” are performed well. The vastly gifted Telly Leung steals the show with his rendition of “All Good Gifts” and Nick Blaemire takes “We Beseech Thee” to new heights as he bounces off the stage center trampoline full of endless energy.
But endless energy isn’t enough. The improvisational atmosphere becomes annoying and ill prepares us for the most serious Last Supper (with an entrée of smoking dry ice) and the Crucifixion of Jesus. While well lit by David Weiner this scene seems to be of another show altogether.
“Judge not,” says Jesus. And so I try to follow his advice by merely giving my opinion.
At the Circle in the Square www.godspell.com Photo: Jeremy Daniel
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