Godspell

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    November 1, 2011

     

    Well, this Godspell has tarted itself quite a bit in the “let’s be current’ department. It comes complete with a new rap song, cell phones, references to Steve Jobs, Gadaffi, Facebook, Occupy New York, and as a reviewer I got all my press materials on a 2G flash drive that sported the Godspell Logo. One of the producers wanted me to mention that.

    Then they went way retro. They cast a blonde blue eyed man for Jesus. (Newsflash – Jesus probably looked more like Bin Laden than he did John Denver.) And they didn’t bother to update the lyrics or text to include women, so that every referenced to human beings is done using “men, man, or mankind”. So what we end up watching, instead of being edgy and thought provoking, ends up being a Wonderbread Musical.

    Seems to me this is supposed to be a story of a radical. Jesus arrived at the crossroad of the world and spoke a sort of Eastern philosophy when everyone else was fighting to survive. He spoke of inner peace that would bring a person the kingdom of Heaven here on earth. He spoke of throwing off the shackles of government oppression and claiming your own worth.

    No wonder he was dead in three years.

    What Daniel Goldstein has chosen to create is something that will play to the lowest common denominator. Make Jesus relevant to today so that people will listen, or at least pay attention. Did I mention they perform Pictionary and play Charades? This production is almost like a flash card drill with Jesus as every other card. Eventually you get the deal.

    The performances are uneven, Jesus (Hunter Parrish) is the weakest link as an actor and a vocalist. He is, in a word, bland. Up against the likes of Lindsay Mendez (watch for this gal to move on up) and Uzo Aduba, Parrish doesn’t stand a chance. Most of the vocals, when you can hear them, have taken on the flavor of American Idol and the sensuality, the passion and fever of the tale get lost in the mix.

    This show will succeed like it’s boring cousin Wicked upstairs, because it will play to the crowd that wants to be entertained without having to disturb anything between their ears. There is a lot of that in this town. And, bless them all because they keep the commerce coming in and producers willing to part with their 5 million bucks once again.

    Theatre is alive in these shows, but it isn’t living up to its possibilities. It’s entertainment, not great theatre.

    I never understand why people would pass up an opportunity to be great.

     

    "The juvenile spirit of the show tends to infantilize its moral and spiritual subject matter, turning the story of Jesus’ life and his followers’ education in the rewards of faith into a series of schoolyard games."
    Charles Isherwood for New York Times

    "Oh, lordy. It takes real effort to drain the joy from “Godspell."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "Feels like rolling around in a vat of marshmallow fluff and sprinkles: It’s brightly colorful and sticky-sweet."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "Despite the overkill, the show's warm heart manages to glow through the glitz."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "Fast pacing is a good thing, but in this endlessly imaginative production, the shtick and jokes fly by at warp speed. It's a show for the ADD generation."
    Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "Now in its first Broadway revival, “Godspell” turns out to be a 40-year-old relic that's surprisingly irresistible."
    Roma Torre for NY1

    "Still endures as Broadway’s gold standard gift to the Christian rock genre."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "This misconceived production -- valiantly if blandly piloted by Hunter Parrish of Showtime’s 'Weeds' as a smiley-faced, buff Abercrombie & Fitch Jesus -- pretty much obliterated 40 years of affection in 2¼ hours."
    David Rooney for Hollywood Reporter

    "The strengths of the original have been so weighted down by mirthless improvements that it makes for a very long two hours."
    Steven Suskin for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - Hollywood Reporter - Variety