`Godspell' is even more divine

Theater: The show's 1960s trappings have been updated by the Pasadena Theatre Company with excellent results, giving the current version a fresh and lively flair

Arundel Live

March 30, 2000|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

As promised, Pasadena Theatre Company's second production of John Michael Tebelak's "Godspell" is new and improved with better choreography, better costumes and at least as strong a cast as last year's.

The show, with music by Stephen Schwartz, opened Friday and runs through April 16.

"Godspell" made its debut in 1971, and its 1960s trappings beg to be updated with contemporary references. This production is filled with current "Is that your final answer?"-type quips.

The show hinges on the cast working together as an ensemble, expressing a flower-child type of Christian fellowship and support of each other. The players need high youthful energy and exuberance, and adequate singing and dancing abilities.

The theater's cast meets all of these requisites.

The show also needs fresh, lively staging, innovative and dramatic lighting, and a few inspired musicians rocking nearby on stage. Staging and lighting are professional, and usually the musicians don't rock too loud.

The current version has all of these essentials, including what Tebelak hoped for -- to make the Christian experience accessible to contemporaries.

The dozen players are strong as an ensemble, with genuine rapport and affection for each other. Cast members' pride and support of each other are apparent in their appreciation of each solo performance. They have a delightful spontaneity and improvisational flair that enlivens the action. Their exuberance is reflected in every dance, the well-executed lively choreography reflecting rehearsal time well-spent.

The players also convey a deep sense of joy in their musical retelling of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.

"Godspell" demands a cast of equal players; only Jesus and Judas have leading roles. Last weekend, Frank Antonio had the role of Jesus and will continue this weekend and next. John Rose will reprise his role from last season as Jesus on April 14-15.

Antonio plays Jesus with great sensitivity and a blend of joyful exuberance and rabbinical dignity. I was pleased that Antonio added the Hebrew blessing of the bread and wine that is part of the Passover celebration. Omitted last year, the prayer adds ecumenical and historical relevance.

Two actors are alternating in the dual role of John the Baptist and Judas Iscariot -- David Duvall and Joe Rose. On Friday, versatile song-and-dance man Joe Rose brought his tremendous dynamism to the play from the moment he entered singing, "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord."

Rose's John the Baptist is filled with warmth, reverence and love, and his Judas is intense and riveting as he builds on his character's frustration and torment.

The cast members are superb ensemble players, each capable of star sparkle.

Karen Lipovsky brings an earthy good nature to "Learn Your Lesson Well," and Brianne Cobuzzi displays a fine singing voice opening the show as Socrates with "Prologue and Tower of Babel" and later delivers an inspired "Bless the Lord."

David Leisure reveals a fine singing voice in "All Good Gifts" and has a sure sense of timing and comic skills.

Danielle Di Carlo has a warmth that radiates from her face, making her a delight to watch. In the theater company's long-standing tradition of actors doing double duty, Jason Kimmell choreographed the numbers, dancing in them as well, and Linda Swann designed the whimsical, nostalgic costumes and adds her considerable charm and whimsy to the ensemble.

The musicians, led by music director Christine Wells, for the most part remember to keep the tempo up and the volume down to allow the singers to be heard.

The cast seems to have formed a community of good-natured, trusting modern-day flower children. And according to composer Schwartz, the formation of such a community is precisely what "Godspell" is all about.

The show continues Fridays through Sundays through April 16. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students age 13 to 18, and $6 for children younger than 12.

Call 410-969-1801 to order tickets.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.