Rather than make the trip to South Bend, the Kaiser and I trekked down to New York City to see the Broadway revival of Godspell. Longtime readers of The Rock know that I included the movie version of the play on my Top 10 Favorite Movies list. While it still pains me that I could not be present at the 1971 Off-Broadway premiere, the revival successfully brought the magic back to life.
Godspell is being performed at the Circle in the Square Theatre. It could be a coincidence, but I found it funny that the show is playing right next to the Gershwin where playwright Stephen Schwartz’s other big musical Wicked has been running for the past seven years. The Circle in the Square is unique because of its arena stage. This is the most challenging stage set up for the actors because they must be constantly aware of their movement because they will always have their backs to some part of the audience while performing.
The stage wasn’t that big either and I was amazed that the ten actors didn’t run into each other. The set designers made the most of the limited space as a small pool and trampolines could be found hidden by boards under the stage. Arena stages don’t make it easy to have a proper stage crew, so the cast had to do all the prop removal, clean up, etc.
Godspell was the Broadway debut for nearly the entire cast and Hunter Parrish’s first starring role. You really wouldn’t be able to tell though unless you were only going by their ages. The cast clearly got along witheach other, something that’s not always necessary but certainly doesn’t hurt when one of the messages of your play is to “love your neighbor.”
The songs were all the same classics that made Godspell so popular in the first place, but the dialogue was updated. There were many references to current popular culture. The story of the rich man and Lazarus was told as if Donald Trump was the rich man. Other references were made to the Occupy Wall Street protests and Gaddfi’s death (too soon? they thought so).
Classic like Godspell don’t get revivals on theatre’s biggest stage very often, especially in such an intimate setting. The original cast included big name actors such as Victor Garber, Eugene Levy, and Martin Short. Who knows, this cast might be the next generation of theatre stars.
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