"Godspell," the 1971 semi-rock musical based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, originated as John Michael Tebelak's master's thesis at Carnegie Institute. Stephen Schwartz added music to the libretto later, and the result was a joyous romp through the life of Jesus.
The folks at Pasadena Theatre Company have assembled a youthful cast that delivers the show with a contagious exuberance that draws the audience at Anne Arundel Community College's Humanities Recital Hall into this rocking, spiritual celebration.
This tight-knit group of skilled ensemble players easily handles the demands of playing a variety of characters, including Abraham, John the Baptist, Lazarus and Mary Magdalene, as they listen to or pantomime the parables told by Jesus. They are all good singers who move like skilled gymnasts through demanding choreography.
They are backed by a terrific group of musicians under music director Eileen Eaton: John Frankenberg on piano, Mike Monda on keyboard, James Buchraitis on guitar and Lynn Bogovitch handling percussion.
The success of "Godspell" hinges on finding the right actor to portray the all-loving, wise and updated Jesus. PTC has all it could wish for in John Andrew Rose. He plays the role as if he was born for it, singing as if divinely inspired, bringing brio to the Gospel, conveying joy in earthly life and shedding tears at the awful burden his character carries. His performance is as powerful as any I've seen.
Teresa Sentz sings the show's best-known song, "Day by Day," with inspired feeling, and tenor David Leisure does equally well with the lesser known "All Good Gifts." Camille Weeks-MacMillan as Mary Magdalene romps through the audience as she delivers "Turn Back, O Man."
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, Doug Kotula narrates while Dan MacMillan, playing the son, vigorously lip syncs with David Leisure acting as the father and Kotula also playing the good son.
Cynthia Lasner does a joyful "Learn Your Lessons Well" and blends beautifully with Danielle DiCarlo in "By My Side."
In addition to bringing out inspired performances from his superb cast, director Bob Rude deserves credit for involving the audience in the performance. Singers move through the auditorium, encouraging responsive rhythmic clapping from the audience. At intermission, grape juice is served Communion-like to the audience.
"Godspell" continues on weekends at Anne Arundel Community College in the Humanities Lecture Hall.
Pub Date: 3/11/99