Review: “Prepare Ye” for Godspell on Broadway

Godspell on BroadwayI think that I was actually one of those children who was raised without ever seeing an original production of Godspell.  I have heard about the show my whole life and had a heightened curiousity about the classic tale.  So when I was given the opportunity to review the show with my family, I jumped at the opportunity.  For one thing, we always love a Broadway show in this family. For another, we’re Jewish and I am always eager to teach my children about Christianity.

Godspell is irreverent without being either sacrilegious or blasphemous. It is cheerfully irreverent, high spirited, joyous, and it teaches the story of Jesus’ life and death.  It also teaches a lot of valuable lessons through its parables, and if you stay on top of your toes, there are a lot of good lessons to be learned and for your children to learn.  Another unique aspect of this production is that there is actual audience participation.  They invite audience members up during much of the first act to help illustrate the lessons of several parables, and then everyone is invited for a cup of grape juice during intermission.

Godspell Broadway

Intermission of Godspell on Broadway

With a vibrant, youthful cast and updated versions of the songs, this version of the show remains true to the original show.  After a successful five year run at off-Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theatre beginning in 1971, Godspell transferred to Broadway on June 22, 1976, before closing at the Ambassador Theatre after 527 performances. The musical features classic songs including “Day By Day,” “By My Side” and “All For the Best.” The show is directed by Daniel Goldstein and choreographed by Tony Award nominee Christopher Gattelli (South Pacific), and the show has clearly benefited from being updated. Even though I didn’t see the original, it’s been 40 years since the original was brought to the stage and any play of that age can use an update.  There are references to Facebook, Gadhafi, the Stimulus Package, a rap song and even Donald Trump that are all meant to bring this classic tale home.

The cast of Godspell features Hunter Parrish as Jesus, Wallace Smith as Judas, Telly Leung, Uzo Aduba, Celisse Henderson, Morgan James and Lindsay Mendez. The cast was well chosen and all are good singers who clearly love this show.  Steven Schwartz‘s songs are as strong now as they must have been when this show debuted.  As soon as the cast jumps on stage to sing “Prepare Ye”, you know you’re in for a treat.  The theater is in the round, and there are musicians strategically placed throughout the theater to create a cosmic sound.  When the cast gets to the famous song, “Day By Day” (sung by Anna Maria Perez DeTagle who just so happens to be a cast member on Camp Rock, Hannah Montana and also opened for the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato on tour…according to my daughter, of course), the skies seemed to open up.  It’s a very uplifting, beautiful piece.

Godspell is a collection of stories and songs.  The performers take turns and each gets a turn to display their vocal abilities.   Through their songs and laughter, they teach lessons, all important to teach to your children.   It will either build your faith, or perhaps crush it.  Its interpretation is up to you. Both of my children, ages 6 and 8, were engaged throughout the production.  I’m not convinced that they understood it completely, but they certainly appreciated the singing, orchestra and costumes.  Fortunately, they have learned to appreciate a good theater production, but I’d be inclined to say the show is for slightly older children.  At the end, when Jesus is brought to his death by Judas and his followers, I don’t think that my children understood.  We got to meet the director, Daniel Goldstein, after the show, and he said that many audience members wait for his resurrection.  I was okay with the show ending this way.  I just wished that when Jesus started singing Hebrew prayers near the show’s end, my children understood why.

Nonetheless, my daughter must have liked the show, for when she heard they were signing programs, she jumped up and dashed out of the theater to get their signatures.  She also delighted in meeting Goldstein, who has just a baby himself and has been carefully handling his parental and directing responsibilities.  What a juggling act.

Daniel Goldstein, Director of Godspell

Telly Leung

Getting Telly Leung's Autograph

All in all, this is afun play to take your family to, particularly with the holidays approaching.  Whether my own children understood the context of this play or not, it was a full-blown Broadway production and they valued the singing, dancing and music.  We were all clapping at the end and we left the theater dancing, always a good sign.  I’ll have to teach them about Jesus and Christianity another time, though.

Godspell  is now playing at Circle in The Square Theater on Broadway. (at 50thSt.).  When ordering tickets here, use discount code: GSMDR79. Tickets cost $79.50 / $89.50 (Sat Eves). Certain black-out dates apply.  Valid through 12/23/11.

For more blog posts on Broadway’s Godspell visit MamaDrama on BroadwayWorld.com.

Be sure to join the Godspell Twitter Party on Wednesday, November 2nd @ 10 PM. Use hashtag #BwayGodspell and join @MamaDramaNY for more details and news on the best theater NYC has to offer.

Disclosure: I received two tickets to this performance in exchange for a review. The thoughts and opinions are my own.  I am also a partner of MamaDrama but my involvement did not influence my views.

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