‘GODSPELL’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by July 18, 2018

‘GODSPELL’ is a musical, loosely based on the Gospel according to St Matthew. The original story was by the quixotic playwright, John-Michael Tebelak. Stephen Schwartz then added the music and libretto.

Forty seven years after it was first produced, Harbour Theatre Inc., in conjunction with the highly respected youth theatre group, Studio2Stage Theatrical Productions, are bringing their version of the show that became an Academy Award winner.

Most of the cast are in their mid-teens, although there are two girls in their early twenties.

Please note the title is ‘Godspell’, not God’s Pell – that would be a cardinal sin!

This exhilarating 2-hour, 2012 revival version can be seen at the Harbour Theatre, within Mosman Park Memorial Hall (Camelot Theatre), 16 Lochee Street, Mosman Park on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings until 28th July. All shows at the earlier time of 7.30 pm, except for the Sunday’s matinées at 2.00 pm on 22nd and 29th July.

Booking advised – use www.TAZTix.com.au.  If you are hoping to see a particular actor, please check their dates as the cast alternates.

 

The scene: 2018, inside an old brick theatre.

The set: The rear wall is red brickwork, with sets of shelving. The stepladders and boxes act as props for the dance routines and various biblical scenes.

Head tech Alex Coutts-Smith, of Helix Audio and Visual, has designed, created and installed the perfect atmosphere for each scene. Employing a large follow-spot, the lighting operator, Katt Nelson picked out the soloists. An intense, white, narrow beam spotlight pointing down at 90 degrees to the stage in the tragic penultimate scene worked so well that even the cast were crying.

Although the cast had headset microphones, they could still belt out the numbers without faltering. The live musical accompaniment was played on piano by the WAAPA trained, musical director, 20 yrs. old Maddie Moulin. The score was quite complex and played with vigour this encouraged the already enthusiastic cast into retaining the fast moving pace. The singers’ headsets and piano were well balanced by sound operator Sam Emons.

The very capable stage management by Emily Winn, allowed the performance to run smoothly.

 

     The show begins with God’s Voice, spoken by Jesus (Edan Frazer), declaring his supremacy: “My name is Known: God and King. I am most in majesty, in whom no beginning may be and no end.”

     The cast rush into the old theatre wearing trendy American-style teenage clothing that ranged from Georgie’s (Michele Gould) demure green suit, to Celisse’s (Laura Foster) gold rah-rah skirt. The cast are carrying the names of historic ‘religious philosophers’ – including L. Ron Hubbard – before singing the aims of their respective philosophies.

     John the Baptist (Lachlan Felstead, alternating with Zachary Cave and Aaron O’Neil) enters, he beckons them to ‘Prepare Ye, The Way of the Lord!’, and picking up a bucket that it catching the rain dripping through the garage roof, baptizes them. Jesus watches in the shadows, and states that he too wishes to be baptized.

     Jesus hands out a red rose to his new disciples. The enactment of a parable – the first of several in the show – is the story of the ‘Pharisees and the Tax Collector’, Nicky (Shelby Foster).

In the next parable, they act out the story of a master and his employee. The servant, Uzo (Tara Butt, Mikaela Innes) owes a debt and his master, having pity, lets him off. This forgiven servant then turns to a fellow worker who owes him a few dollars, and demands that it be paid in full. The master, hearing this, then condemns the servant to prison.

     In order to explain the messages further to his disciples, Jesus plays charades. The parable of Lazarus, depicted by ‘disciple’ Lindsay (Mia Frazer, Mikaela Innes), and the story of the rich man is next tackled by the rag-tag company, who are quickly learning how to work together in a loving Christian way.

         In an antiphonic chorus, led by Morgan (Loralie Cole) the group recites the Beatitudes. Judas (Lachlan Felstead, alternating with Zachary Cave and Aaron O’Neil) however, aims the final beatitude at persecuting Jesus.

    Jesus thanks the audience for coming and announces a 20-minute intermission. During the intermission, Anna Maria (Amalie Meneghetti, Beth Tandy) joined the audience for wine and bread.

       The story progresses with plenty of laughs and action, until the final dramatic and tragic penultimate scene, when genuine tears flowed.

 

Several well-known numbers are included in the show, such as ‘Day By Day’, ‘Light of the World’, ‘By My Side’ and ‘Beautiful City’, they are blended with a fun selection of games, and an animated recounting of the parables. 20 yrs. old Mikaela Innes devised the choreography, and working with the musical director, Maddison Moulin, they have spent 4 months preparing the cast, and it shows! Each member of this vivacious young cast sang a solo – all were in tune and performed with passion.

Recently I was blown away by a 14 yrs. old in ‘Oklahoma’ (Sarah Ganon) and now in this show; another 14 yrs. old (Mia Frazer) proved that she too has great stage presence and delivery. Most of the cast were females, who even as youngsters seem to be capable of powerful deliveries; the boys however, tend to take some years more to reach the same vocal richness. The songs, even the occasional tongue-twister was enunciated clearly and delivered with tremendous drive, emotion and reverence. There was a mix of perfect harmony and tricky counterpoint.

The exhilarating dance routines, one even included a tap routine in wellington boots, called for the whole cast to be totally tuned into the complex action, and they were magnificent.

The director, Jodie Innes, has managed to deliver this thought-provoking story in a modern, interesting and pleasurable manner. As a hint that all the people of the world are included, there was even a Scottish and a Belfast accent. The cast obviously enjoyed the show’s fun, and their enthusiasm was passed onto the audience.

Director Jodie Innes has taken a relatively inexperienced cast and technical operators, then with a huge amount of mentoring achieved a high quality show. Congratulations.