The Godpsell according to Germy

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I went to see the local production of Godspell here in town. It was intrigued since it's basically a retelling of St. Matthew's Gospel. Yeah, it's a religious show, much in the style of Jesus Christ Superstar. It actually ends the same, with the death of JC himself. But the take is quite different. In Godspell you have a troupe of actors singing about the teachings of Jesus Christ in a totally non-corny way, and they actually use incredibly hilarious sketches to enact his parables and lessons. It sounds much more boring than it is to see onstage. The original production lasted over 2600 performances in New York. It's basically an evening of pure hippie-style storytelling, and it works, magically. Some don't believe this is a very appropriate way to present the bible, but it definitely works.

The performers here were mesmerizing and uproarious! I had never laughed so hard in a good while, the sketches were really great.

But there's a downside. The songs. The music was pre-recorded (from one of the many cast albums for this show), which is to be expected since there is like zero budget, but the SINGING was also prerecorded. Yeah, they totally pulled a Rocky Horror and mouthed ALL the fucking songs. COME ON! And they were charging $20 USD for what you can get at a drag show for $5, people dressed-up and lip-synching. I was quite disappointed. All the energy of the sketches was completely lost when the musical numbers started, which is ridiculous in a musical since the songs are supposed to be energy peaks within the show. The ending was still quite moving, but they didn't get away with it. What a crock. I'll be sending them en e-mail with my thoughts.

The musical itself is quite wonderful. From early on in the opening (a "stylized presentation of the 'Tower of Babble'"), I was transfixed by the melodies. Wow. Stephen Schwartz (yeah, the guy behind Wicked and the Pocahontas songs) has created a masterpiece. Seriously. The songs are religious yet never corny or "churchy". They deliver their message with honest sincerity. And since "Godspell" eventually turned into modern gospel, the tunes are mighty toe-taping energy balls. There is one I especially like in which the performer is warning men to change their foolish ways and to listen to God. But she's doing it as a sort of cabaret chanteuse, in a very sexy and alluring way. If you didn't know any better, you'd swear this was a seduction song. But she's actually trying to save your soul. Welcome to Godspell.

Turn back, O man
Forswear thy foolish ways
Old now is earth
And none may count her days...
Earth might be fair
And all men glad and wise
Age after age their tragic empires rise
Built while they dream
And in that dreaming weep
Would man but wake
From out his haunted sleep.

-Turn back, O man by Stephen Schwartz (from Godspell)


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