Sunday, November 12, 2006

GODSPELL Still Casts a Spell

I saw a production of "Godspell" on Friday night that was just lovely. It started out kind of cringe-worthy for some classic "Waiting For Guffman" reasons that I won't go into here, but within ten minutes the cast had me in the palm of their hands and I was totally drawn into the sacred story they were telling. The director did a wonderful job keeping show vibrant but not manic, and the cast was so sincere and so totally in character that any flaws in singing or dancing skill were more than forgiven. After all, were the disciples not occasionally klutzy? Of course they were. And these people were simply adorable, every one of them.

What really struck me this time was how often Jesus threatens his followers with Hell. The book for "Godspell" is taken from the Gospel of Matthew, and I thought to myself, cripes, no wonder I hardly ever read Matthew!
I'm more of a Luke girl, myself.

So many of the parables ended with something like, "And I tell you, he who lives like the rich young man will feel the fires of Hell!" I'm looking around the audience and thinking, "Wow, what do all these nice suburban people think of this? What do the kids think? Or are they too busy giggling about the fact that Jesus and Judas are real-life partners and have written each other lovey-dovey shout-outs in their respective program bios?"

The two teenagers in front of me were certainly distracted by this fact. Every time Judas and Jesus had the slightest interaction on stage, there was this flurry of thigh-punching between them. At intermission I leaned forward and said to them, "Did it ever occur to you that the real Jesus and Judas might have been lovers?" You should have seen them go completely stiff with shock as I chuckled and slid out of my seat to go to the lobby.

Anyway, the man who sang "All Good Gifts" was so beautiful about it, just standing on top of a box and putting his whole heart and soul into it, it was worth the very long drive just to see that (and to hear the drummer totally slamdunk the moment before "I really want to thank you, Lord!"). I would have driven TWICE as far to hear that rendition of that beloved song. The director had all the disciples seated in a circle around the soloist and at the end of the song they all reached out to take hands as though around a dining room table, and bowed their heads in prayer. Heartbreakingly simple and lovely. I thought, that's Christian life, right there. Friends, hands, circle, table.

I also got very choked up when Judas baptized all the disciples by throwing glitter on them like fairy dust. And during "On The Willows," which takes its lyrics from Psalm 137 about the Babylonian exile, fugettaboutit. I was sobbing as one of the disciples got up and quietly narrated that Judas was now waiting for a time to betray Jesus. Man, that is effective theatre. God bless Stephen Schwartz for that score, which has been part of my life's soundtrack since I was a tiny child.

Okay, back to work. And then to bed. Tomorrow, work. Work.Work. Focus.


Blogger juniper68 said...

Dude, I know just what I mean. I took my 4 yo son last summer to a really horrible church production, but it's like the show that can't be ruined. In spite of the flat singing and unispired dancing, I was in tears anyway by the end. And Eli belts out "Prrreeeeparrrre ye" every time we drive by that church, so our outing did what it was supposed to do - which was to make Godspell part of the soundtrack of HIS childhood too.
PS: Do you still need Pippin? I'm pretty sure I have an extra copy around here I'd be happy to mail you.
PPS: There's no way to say "I also love musical theater" without sounding like a total doorknob. So I'll just say thanks for this post.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm convinced that Godspell is the rare show that's actually better the less "professional" the cast is-- because faith and professions thereof are more effective the less slick and produced they are.

Blogger boyinthebands said...

Here's a really good article about Godspell, from the Washington Post. (Registration may be required.)

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Scott, love it! Thanks!!!That was really wonderful information that I never knew before


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