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The 'Godspell' according to Infinity Theatre

Kyle Hines as Jesus in Infinity Theatre's production of “Godspell.” The cast also includes Laura Stracko, Ashley Buster, Ella Green and Andy Baldwin as both John the Baptist and Judas.
Kyle Hines as Jesus in Infinity Theatre's production of “Godspell.” The cast also includes Laura Stracko, Ashley Buster, Ella Green and Andy Baldwin as both John the Baptist and Judas.(Nathan Hawkins)

Infinity Theatre's current production of "Godspell" taps energy from several renditions of this memorable musical — the 1971 original, the 2012 revision with new music and lyrics created by Stephen Schwartz, and this version with Infinity's own twist.

In 1971 this musical — with book by John-Michael Tebelak and music by Schwartz — brought its hippie and flower child message of love and inclusion onto the Broadway stage.

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Now almost 50 years later, a new approach adds a contemporary feel while emphasizing the continued relevance of the parable teachings from the Beatitudes.

Particularly welcome in Infinity's "Godspell" is the irresistible beat that drives each sizzling number. The fabulous live band directed by Laura Mueller immediately engages the audience and sweeps us into the story. Always visible onstage, the five musicians enhance every response to stage action, allowing emotions to soar on cue with the music.

This "Godspell" also defines a first-rate musical in its engaging song and dance ensemble. Every voice is exactly right for each role in solos, and blend beautifully in choral turns. Kimberly Schafer's sharp choreography recalls myriad styles, all smoothly executed by the cast with vigor and grace.

Alan Ostroff's directorial skills show in casting and sharply paced action.

The production is staged within a television station format — adding a dynamic play-within-a-play dimension. Ostroff's concept places "Godspell" in a "Saturday Night Live" rehearsal setting — bringing contemporary flair with a dash of Ferris Bueller nostalgia.

The television station setting is staffed by an entirely credible crew of TV production personnel — again showing Ostroff's casting prowess. Its authenticity is assisted by Quinn Stone of StoneDog Studios, a woman-owned design and fabrication scene shop that created this convincing television stage.

The result of this creative approach are energy-driven TV rehearsal scenes juxtaposed against passages from the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

The venture from Scripture to skit is a winning combination, a tapestry tied together by a stellar ensemble of vocalists. Not only is every voice right for the role, but every voice is distinctive, adding color to every chorus.

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Standouts are the main number, "Day By Day," and "By My Side" sung by the trio of Laura Stracko, Ashley Buster and Ella Green.

Stracko — who is also appearing as the lead in Infinity's "A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline" through Aug. 6 — displays notable vocal artistry in her inviting "Bless The Lord" and the tender "By My Side" trio.

Buster has her own chance to shine in her Tina Turner rendition of "Learn Your Lessons Well," creating a genuine show-stopping moment.

And Green is nothing short of a delight — especially for those who have watched her talents expand from adolescence to a fully qualified vocal force.

"Godspell" tells the sacred story through the words of John the Baptist, who is joined by Jesus in his mission. Gifted actor and singer Andy Baldwin is cast as both John the Baptist and Judas. As John, he displays a classically trained voice suited to Broadway and contemporary ballads, excelling in the powerful solo "Prepare Ye" — summoning followers to welcome the greater one to come.

Infinity's production has equally gifted actor and singer Kyle Hines in the role of Jesus; he instantly engages the audience with his commanding stage presence and stunning vocal gifts.

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Hines never disappoints, showing enormous versatility in the Vaudeville-style duet "All For The Best" with Baldwin — complete with canes and straw hats. he then turns plaintive yet optimistic in "Beautiful City," and is exquisitely subdued in "On The Willows," a compassionate, tender goodbye to grieving followers.

Infinity's "Godspell" provides an entertaining and thought-provoking evening that leave audiences with much to appreciate — and perhaps much to ponder.

The show continues through July 30 at Children's Theatre of Annapolis, 1661 Bay Head Road. Tickets can be purchased online at infinitytheatre.com or by calling 877-501-8499.

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