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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “Godspell”

November 8th, 2011

Get caught up with what’s on stage with our review round-up. And that vaguely hollow, clinking sound you hear at the end of each segment? That’s me tossing in my two cents.

The Cast of "Godspell". Photo by Jeremy Daniel.


The loose and youthful 1971 Stephen Schwartz/John-Michael Tebelak musical based on the Gospels of Matthew gets a modern make-over directed by Daniel Goldstein and starring Hunter Parrish (Weeds) as a very crushworthy Jesus.

New York Times
Go easy on the caffeine if you’re heading to the Broadway revival of “Godspell”…The cast…virtually never stops bopping, bouncing, bounding, even trampolining across the stage and up the aisles of the theater. It’s like being trapped in a summer camp rec room with a bunch of kids who have been a little too reckless with the Red Bull.

The nine performers are talented young people who get less cloying in the second act, when they stop trying so hard. They begin in business clothes, talking into cellphones, but soon change into ragtag thrift shop/fairy-tale style. They dance the Macarena, shoot confetti at us from pop guns and, in one of the better numbers, jump on trampolines revealed under trap doors.

New York Post
…the revival that opened on Broadway last night takes cheerfulness to a whole other level. Watching this “Godspell” feels like rolling around in a vat of marshmallow fluff and sprinkles: It’s brightly colorful and sticky-sweet.

Bloomberg News
Updating the show with mobile phones and references to Donald Trump makes it no less creepy. Jesus (Hunter Parrish) can’t sing. The band sounds muddy. David Korins’s set and Miranda Hoffman’s costumes replace primary colors with dull tones. There’s one standout among the dreary supporting players: a star-quality mimicker named Telly Leung.

Hunter Parrish. Image via

Mizer’s Two Cents: Exuberantly performed by a diverse (without feeling as forced as a Benetton ad) and wickedly talented ensemble, this revival works as a spiritual-themed party filled with fun songs (rearranged for the times), playful choreography and clever staging. I even got tingles of childlike joy at inventive yet simple theatrical moments: the sound of soft shoe mimicked by torn newspaper, the casual one-upsmanship of diva singers Telly Leung and Lindsay Mendez returning from the intermission, a happy splash of water falling somewhere between a baptism and a squirt gun fight.

Amid the fun, though, I did miss a clarity in the telling of the timeless parables being shared; endings slipped by and philosophically rich moments got lost in the confetti. I also found myself not as emotionally attached to Hunter Parrish’s sweetly encouraging and happily ceding center-stage Jesus, which makes the Passion Play ending not as potent. Part of it may be that I was thrown off by the timely jokes (Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen were lampooned) that pepper more than just a bit of the script, though (in defense of this choice) the people around me roared with laughter.

See it if you are a fan of the score or if you want to see a parade of some of Broadway’s most talented young performers strut their stuff with infectious ease.

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