James Daly truly enjoyed Godspell, a show like no other.
This year’s Magdalene musical, Godspell by Stephen Schwartz, is a show like no other and it certainly knows it, taking the audience from profound moral teachings to ‘I am the Messiah’ sung to the tune of Adele.
Using parables from the Bible as its inspiration, the show is a series of interactions with Jesus through which the characters learn the moral lessons of Christianity, interspersed with modern music varying in genre from rock to jazz to traditional musical theatre.
Benedict Welch carries the production as Jesus, commanding the ensemble and creating a calm, refreshing atmosphere on stage as a contrast to the other characters’ exuberant, wacky performances. Welch is one of many extremely talented performers this show has to offer, alongside standout vocalists Heather Conder, Pamela MacDuff and Martha Cook, whose hilarious ad libs throughout were also highlights.
The ensemble-driven nature of this show makes it difficult to pick favourite moments but particular mentions must go to Kate Stevenson for her wonderfully sultry and beautifully sung rendition of ‘Turn Back, O Man’, and Fopé Jegede whose outstanding performance of ‘By My Side’ – featuring vocals from Katie McCoshan, Elaine Duncan and Laura Pujos – was the most moving, memorable moment of the show.
Under the direction of Will Popplewell, every cast member is able to shine, and in very well executed dance numbers, with effective, uplifting choreography by Maddie Wong and Megan Thorpe, the stage comes alive with energy and it is impossible not to smile, seeing a stage full of actors clearly having the time of their lives, despite the audience often having very little idea what is happening plot-wise.
The lack of any cohesive narrative structure and frequent technical problems with the microphones are the only flaws of this production and undoubtedly the technical issues will improve as the run goes on. As for the plot, the key is to stop trying to understand why everyone is singing, dancing and pretending to be seeds and just enjoy the fabulous performances.
If you can stop taking yourself seriously enough to stop and enjoy the roses, Godspell will be a real treat.