Godspell at Westchester Broadway Theatre

Published: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 By: Kathryn Kitt Source: BroadwayWorld

Even before the first act of Godspell began, the energy was palpable in the room. I do not think I have seen a more packed audience at Westchester Broadway Theatre in quite a while; especially since most of the shows presented there are more conventional. However, perhaps Godspell is a sign that Westchester Broadway Theatre is ready to tackle more adventurous shows; based on the impressive display from the talent and creative team.

Having never seen this show or not knowing the backstory, I went into it completely green. Based on the parables from the "Gospel of Matthew," the show consists of teachable moments set to song - with cultural references thrown in to make it more current and accessible. Stephen Schwartz, the composer, has written a catchy score- with songs that are sung in school choirs all across the country - including "Day by Day" and "We Beseech Thee." This invoked audience participation with clapping and singing along - making us feel like we were disciples as well.

Directed and Choreographed by John Fanelli with assistance from Jonathan Stahl, he has assembled a highly spirited group of young actors who were able to convey the emotional core of the lessons. One must stay true to your beliefs in the ways of forgiveness, empathy and compassion. The actors have a great connection to each other and sing with beautiful harmonies and execute graceful and energetic choreography. Gilbert D. Sanchez as Jesus, dressed in a Superman shirt, and Xander Chauncey as Judas led the players with intense acting and conviction. Josh Kenney, Kareema Castro Khouri, Greta Kleckner, Nicholas Park, Devon Perry, Nathan Andrew Riley, Sarah Smithton and Karley Willocks round out the cast of players and each had his/her own standout moment.

William Stanley's music direction was spot on and he assembled an impressive band of musicians. Steven Loftus designed a bright atmosphere with different levels to highlight the dramatic moments of the show. The costumes by Matthew Hemesath were contemporary and fun, and Andrew Gmoser's Lighting brought the audience into the Biblical world.

Godspell at Westchester Broadway Theatre is truly a wonderful experience and gives hope that perhaps more chances will be taken in future productions at Westchester Broadway Theatre. Especially with the cultural references and contemporary arrangements, this might bring in a whole new demographic.