Godspell, now playing at Lakewood Theatre Company, and directed by Michael Snider, is not a production original for its storytelling. It is, however, graced with a company of talented singers and dancers, and high-octane energy. Look at it as the New Testament on steroids.
As Godspell opens, Socrates, Aquinas, Luther, and Nietzsche meet at the playground to state their views on religion. They wear colorful tennis shoes. Talking out of context, they sound like pompous children, rendering the setting appropriate (scenic design by John Gerth).
So begins a two-hour musical romp through the Gospel according to St. Matthew, with parables from taken from Luke. John the Baptist (Brock Bivens) dunks Jesus (Alec Cameron Lugo), thereby facilitating the beginning of Jesus’s short-lived career as a prophet, teacher, and “fisher of men”.
As most of us know, John the Baptist’s career was particularly short-lived, so the artful Brock Bivens also fills the role of Judas. At once innocent and sly, he is just super, particularly in a little song-and-dance routine with Jesus, “All for the Best”, near the end of Act I. The company performs the parables and several stories from Matthew through mime, dance, and song, as Jesus talks us through them.
Musical conductor Cyndy Ramsey-Rier and musicians Max Rees, Amy Roesler, T.J. Arko, and Brian Michael deserve special mention, as do choreographers Michael Snider and Randy Andre Davis.
Says the late playwright John-Michael Tebelak of his play, which premiered in 1971, “I wanted to make it the simple, joyful message that I felt the first time I read [the Gospels]….” In that he succeeded very well. Music is by Stephen Schwartz.
Godspell runs through June 11 on at Lakewood Theatre. It is suitable for all audiences.