Review: Godspell, Hope Mill Theatre

If a spinning woman singing praises to a selfie-stick in the woods doesn’t excite you, then I’m uncertain what would. This 50th Anniversary concert of Godspell is a swarm of praises to the Lord told through a markedly modernised online stream.

The music is undoubtedly the centrepoint of the production, and rightly so. The pace and orchestration of the songs are clean. Anyone could thoroughly enjoy the vocals (aside from the occasionally l awkward call and response sections). It is unfortunate that the 7 or 8 refrains are looped over so often they lose momentum. While there is clear talent in the construction of the musical scores, the lyrics harken to contemporary worship songs which provide only vague emphasis on nothing more than God’s very existence. The lyrical writing does not reflect the impressive musical score as the same few lines are repeated with increased grandiosity. It is disappointing when the songs truly spark potential.

It is the 50th Anniversary of the show, lest I say it is a little outdated. One must provide leeway as this adaptation is void of plot, however the show does not harbour the charm of ‘Joseph’s Technicolour Dreamcoat’ nor the creative architecture of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’ This entire ensemble seems entirely void of point, and perhaps that is the point. Only the segments are intercut with black and white stills of the Covid-19 crisis as if attempting to draw some empty comparison.

The underlying message, vague as it is, calls for human connection. This is ironic considering this online stream could not be more disconnected. In reworking this production for an online format, the producers seem to have missed a beat, or several. The pandemic has provided us insight into the creative expanses of technological advances while the outdated graphics fall straight out of some Christian Television Network. Solos are told through iPhone animations and emojis pop-up halfheartedly. Whilst I would love to praise the resourcefulness of filming primarily through smaller phone cameras, the result is nothing but nauseating handheld shots.

Our current climate may have offered a boost in the direction of refreshing a fifty year old musical, yet the organisation lacks innovation. Dancing to a song about Jesus in a countryside landscape or a dimly lit church gets old quick. The cringeworthy graphics create a passion play gone lacklustre musical which I can’t imagine draws in a monumental audience. Needless to say, I did not feel divinely inspired by this online stream of Godspell.

Godspell is streaming online until the 29th August. For more information and tickets, see the Hope Mill Theatre’s website.