The musical Godspell originally started as a master’s thesis project for John-Michael Tebelak at Carnegie Mellon University. However, the show as we know it today is the joint effort of Tebelak and Stephen Schwartz, who provided the music and new lyrics. In 1971, it opened on Off-Broadway and was declared a hit. It first appeared on the Broadway stage in 1976, with a revival in 2011. Now, it marks the 190th production on the Westchester Broadway Theatre’s stage.
. . . Godspell brings the Biblical parables to life in a fun and accessible manner.
It doesn’t have the typical over-arching plot line you might be expecting. Rather, it is a fun and humorous look at a portion of the Bible; specifically the life and parables of Jesus Christ. With Jesus in a Superman shirt and suspenders, and the rest of his followers dressed equally as comically, one is left with the impression of skits performed by a traveling troupe. Their clownish behavior and costumes lend a circus-like feel to the performance. It is a lighthearted and different perspective on the serious themes of love, forgiveness and treating others as you would wish to be treated.
It appears there has been some debate over the meaning of Godspell as a whole, and its intent in being created. Perhaps, the best answers to these questions come from Stephen Schwartz himself. He stated that: Godspell is essentially a show about the formation of a community, not about religion, at least in my view, and it was always on that basis that we rehearsed it.” He also said that: “Godspell was conceived by John-Michael Tebelak, who was combining his interests in theatre and his calling to become an Episcopal minister…Clearly, this is not a work intended to ‘mock’ Christianity . . . what Godspell does do is find humor in the Gospels and in the responses of human beings to them. The show was conceived by John-Michael partly as a response to the humorlessness, joylessness and narrow-mindedness he found in many organized Christian congregations.” Theatre Review: ‘Godspell’ at Westchester Broadway Theatre | New York Theatre Guide
The cast of this performance did a wonderful job. They were funny, energetic and genuinely looked as if they were having a fabulous time. Their voices blended together in lovely harmonies, and each stood out perfectly in solo moments. I speak from experience when I say that for performers, matinees with small audiences can be difficult to get through. With fewer people responding to the material, the energy often falls fla, but not so with this cast. Heedless of the audience size, they gave the show everything it deserved, and I am truly impressed with the quality of their performance. This ten person cast consists of: Gilbert D. Sanchez as Jesus, and Xander Chauncey as John the Baptist & Judas Iscariot; with Josh Kenney, Kareema Castro Khouri, Greta Kleckner, Nicholas Park, Devon Perry, Nathan Andrew Riley, Sarah Smithton and Karley Willocks as the followers.
Under direction from John Fanelli and Jonathan Stahl, the show was well-supported with costuming by Matthew Hemesath and musical direction by William Stanley. Also appreciated are the updated references for the present decade. With humor and joy, Godspell brings the Biblical parables to life in a fun and accessible manner.
Running Time: 2 ½ hours including one 30 minute intermission.
Godspell is playing at the Westchester Broadway Theatre through August 9, 2015. The theatre is located at 1 Broadway Plaza, Elmsford NY. For tickets call the box office at (914) 592-2222.