Godspell on Broadway

Godspell on Broadway lives up to the term "revival" in multiple ways.  In theater terminology, it is an updated version of an older show, in this case the popular 1970s musical.  In spiritual terms, a "revival" also refers to a communal awakening, and this production tries really hard to channel the exuberant energy of its talented cast to its audience, pumping them up sometimes in spite of themselves.

I never saw the original stage play nor have I seen the movie adaptation, so I can only judge Godspell based on the matinee performance I saw with my wife on Saturday.  The space was the intimate Circle in the Square, one of my favorite venues on Broadway, where I saw the wonderful Metamorphoses and the fun 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  Its theater-in-the-round set up is perfectly suited for the up-close-and-personal action of the biblical tale of Jesus and his disciples, told in rapid fire variety acts of song, dance, vaudevillian humor, and theatrical dramatics.

While I love some of Stephen Schwartz's other musicals much more (Pippin and Wicked), some of the songs here still stick to my brain, such as "Save the People," "Beautiful City," and the lovely "Day by Day."  The entire young cast is loaded with talent, led by Hunter Parrish who brings his endearing personality and some impressive gravitas to the role of Jesus.

Modern references pop up throughout the show, bringing the ages old Christian tale to contemporary times.  I respect the show for putting the teachings of the icon from Nazareth at the forefront of the narrative, even if it sometimes feels like a string of church homilies and Sunday school acting exercises.  The ensemble's commitment shines through and their positive energy elevates the parables to fresh new heights. 

I'm curious to know how someone who saw the show back during its original run feels about the new version.  Our society seems to become more and more cynical towards religion and spirituality.  Some might find Godspell too preachy and others might find it too controversially irreverent.  Others, like me, might see it as a charming little show with a message of love at its core.

Visit http://www.godspell.com/ for tickets and more information.

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