On the same weekend that both Easter and Passover happen to fall this year, it only seems fitting to spend Easter Sunday watching Godspell in Concert. The story is a modern adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew – and a small selection of the Gospel of Luke. The musical is structured in a series of parables interspersed with a wide variety of modern musical genres.
The original concept for this show was written by John-Michael Tebelak who wrote Godspell for his masters thesis project in the 70s. The music is written by the same great mind behind the ever popular musical Wicked – Stephen Schwartz.
The show’s first act shows a group of ordinary people – who all use their real names – coming together to learn about the teachings of God through their friend Jesus. The second act shows the group start to doubt Jesus and leads to his betrayal and ultimately crucifixion.
It would be useful to go into this show with a vague idea of what the Gospels contained as during the intervals there were several discussions between groups of confused audience members and the auditorium was dotted by the glow of mobile phones doing a quick Wiki-search. That isn’t to say of course, that you wouldn’t understand the show otherwise;the cast do an immaculate job in explaining each parable clearly and using modern popular culture references to get the laughs. The cast are quick to show acknowledgement to their composer in a small yet appropriate reference to Wicked.
The musical is considered a ‘rock musical’, however, the styles of music seem to change throughout the show. Indeed, gospel music is used throughout but this is alongside rock, pop and even one song that you would probably find in a James Bond theme tune. Of course, Leanne Jarvis (from The Voice) spectacularly belts out the show’s most iconic song – Day by Day – in a way that would make anyone’s chair swivel around. The few raps in the show feel forced and off-beat and could probably be changed into song to reflect the cast’s strong talents. However, X Factor‘s Andy Abraham can lay quite an impressive beat.
The cast are absolutely fantastic and each one is able to stand out from the group in their own time. This show evidently calls from some very strong vocals and no one disappoints.
In every city the cast will be joined by a local choir. The American Musical Theatre Academy of London do a great job of backing vocals and choreography and clearly have built a rapport with the touring cast. Everything about this show is uplifting.
Godspell in Concert played Hackney Empire. For more information, see the Hackney Empire website. Photo by Darren Bell.