Godspell

Jesus rocks out seventies style in the Godspell according to Anne-Marie Marquess

Holy smoke fills the room in preparation for our meeting with the Messiah. There's that smell you get in churches, the smell you only get in churches, as the incense wafts around. The scene, or the scent, is set, and the parables soon to commence. So begins Stage Right’s production of the classic 1970s rock musical Godspell.

Taking its name from the old English spelling of ‘gospel’, Godspell translates to mean 'good news'. An apt title for an upbeat, vivacious and vibrant musical, based on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, with Jesus as the lead, Judas as his sidekick and eight followers thrown in for good measure.

Godspell first hit the theatres about a year after Jesus Christ Superstar, the original and best Jesus styled 70s rock musical. It is probably best described as his smaller, shorter, less flamboyant baby brother. Godpsell is still a great musical though, brought to us by old hand Stephen Schwartz, the mastermind behind recent West End hit Wicked.

Unfortunately, if you’re expecting 70s hair styles, colourful clothes and flares, you won’t get them in this production. What you will get is a modern cast, clad in blue jeans and white t-shirts, young, fresh, fun and funky. We did a get a glimpse of colour in the form of the little accessories, a red scarf, a colourful flower, when the group decide to become followers of Jesus.

Godspell is one of those musicals that can move with the times, adapting to almost any venue and fashion style, testament to it's lasting appeal. This is a very modern production.

The Jesus in this performance, Mark Adamson, has great charisma, on stage presence, acting ability and vocal ability. Supremely well cast, he really looks the part. A perfect Jesus who has also played Superstar, he is no stranger to the Bible. He is taller, more mature than his disciples and commands their attention. The whole cast are really talented with most performing a solo number.

The set in the Baby Grand is simple scaffolding on either side of a raised platform. A couple of audience members whisper, 'I wonder what the set would be like in the West End?' 

At the start of the second act, during a thundering rendition of 'Turn Back O Man', one of the cast sings and seduces her way around the audience. With long dark hair, pouting lips and curves to match, she sings and propositions some of the more elderly members of the audience with 'See you later big boy' and 'What are you doing after the show?'. They seem quite tense at this point, while the rest of the audience roar with laughter. She plays the femme fatale with aplomb.

The best guitar music comes at the end during the Crucifixion, in tune with Jesus's painful and angst ridden state and that of his followers. It gets quite serious at this point, but the mood is resurrected with the uplifting song 'Day by Day' for the finale.

It's good to see Jesus portrayed in a musical like this. He can be seen as the original hippie after all, standing against the organised religion of the day and hanging about with the people he chose to, somewhat of an outsider and dancing to the beat of his own drum. Accompanied by a thrilling musical score, Easter week is a perfect time to see the parables brought to life. God speed ahead to the Baby Grand. 

Godspell is currently showing at The Baby Grand until Saturday 29th March. For more information and to make a booking click here.