The principal joy of Godspell is the richly tuneful score by Stephen Schwartz, featuring the huge hit “Day by Day”. Godspell was his first hit, and really put him on the musical theatre map. This new Broadway revival certainly does well by that lovely score, with vigorous new arrangements by Michael Holland, and a cast full of incredible voices, especially those belonging to Telly Leung, Nick Blaemire, Lindsay Mendez and Anna Maria Perez de Tagle.
If I have one complaint about the musical side of this new Godspell, it would be regarding Andrew Keister’s somewhat treble-heavy sound design. From what I could make out, Steve Millhouse is a very fine bassist, and for this score to really rock and roll like it should, we need to hear more of Millhouse.
The book has always been the problematic side of Godspell, and director Daniel Goldstein and his team have only partially solved it. The musical is loosely structured around a series of parables from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, with the passion of Christ treated briefly near the end.
Godspell‘s conceiver and original director, the late John-Michael Tebelak, scripted a book that was inspired by games, clowning and improvisation. This suited the times in the early 1970s, but the approach hasn’t aged well. There are some very up-to-date topical references in this new Godspell (presumably by Goldstein and the cast since no-one is credited with “additional material”) and they are easily the most entertaining non-musical part of the show. Unfortunately, their success makes the other parts of the script feel even more mustily patchouli-scented.
Yes, I loved the score as much as I ever did, but – in spite of the best efforts of a game, energetic and stunningly talented cast – I still found the rest of the show very trying.
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