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Greater London
posted/updated: 07 Apr 2013 -
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Book by John Michael Tebelak. Conceived and Originally Directed by John Michael Tebelak
society/company: Sedos (directory)
performance date: 06 Apr 2013
venue: The Bridewell Theatre, Bride Lane, Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8EQ
reviewer/s: Susan Elkin (Sardines review)

This show, which pulses with unflagging energy, features 19 talented, youngish performers. The result is two hours of entertaining, well-paced musical theatre in which the original 1971 Tebelak/Schwartz account of St Matthew’s Gospel is reworked for the City of London today with close reference to the political unease and riots of 2012. Thus we get police with riot shields and contrasting characters derived from both the besuited, prosperous city and the community of London’s residents and homeless.
Joe Penny, as a boyish, mercurial, charismatic Jesus, takes the cast smilingly and benignly through the first act and then deepens the role movingly during the betrayal and agony of the second half. It’s a fine performance in which he is counterbalanced by the deeper-voiced, very competent Dan Geller as John-Judas who baptises Jesus in one guise at the beginning and betrays him as Judas at the end.

The ensemble work in this show is outstanding. The cast takes ownership of the whole playing area and often the auditorium as well as the side entrances in the Bridewell. The slickly professional movement work is a great credit to choreographer Kimberly Barker and really shows how a company of the calibre of Sedos can seriously blur the difference between professional and amateur work. From the staccato opening number with its complex choral counterpoint to the music hall-style tap dance number (with Penny on a skate board) and the rhythmic dancing to the repeated, urgent ‘We beseech thee O Lord, Hear Us’ the well directed cast works together beautifully.

Godspell is a piece which lends itself to small solo roles. Almost everyone in the ensemble gets a solo spot and every one of them is strong, especially Shannon Mc Donough with her mobile face and splendid singing voice. And if you have someone who can work miracles with four hula hoops as Jessie Walters can, able to play keyboard as well as Adrian Hau, or excel on a pole like Kate Goldesh, then it makes good directorial sense to exploit every talent imaginatively as director Robert Stanex does here.

All credit too to the four piece band, led by musical director David Griffiths on keyboard, which holds the work together and adds yet another dimension to this vibrant and exciting show.

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