|Date||27th March 2018|
|Society||Inspirations Theatre Co|
|Venue||The Hasland Playhouse|
|Type of Production||Musical|
|Musical Director||Melanie Gilbert|
Author: Joyce Handbury
Godspell is a musical composed by Stephen Schwartz and playwright Jon-Michael Tebelak. Based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew it deals with the last days of Jesus and features a group of eccentric players who along with him dramatise several well-known parables through games, storytelling and general hanky-panky.
On reaching our allocated seats in this wonderful but extremely small theatre, we couldn’t immediately sit down because a ‘person’ was festooned across them and slowly arose asking us for money before moving to another seat. We then noticed that there were several other ‘down-and-outs’ in various forms of attire around and at the front the auditorium some with placards, others just begging. This set the scene for the opening number, ‘Tower of Babble’. The characters all moved to the stage and taking on the role of various philosophers each in turn, highlighting their face with a torch, sang fragments of their famous sayings (the quotes were also projected on to a back-cloth) but then all joined together each singing their individual quotes and it just became a ‘babble’. Making his way down the aisle was John the Baptist singing ‘Prepare Ye, The Way of the Lord’. He then proceeded to baptize them along with Jesus. The ensemble reappear, some coming down the centre aisle, but this time in very gaudy, hippy-styled outfits accompanied by Jesus in a ‘Superman’ t-shirt!
This show is always referred to as an ‘ensemble’ piece, mainly because of the nature of the action, but by golly if you haven’t got a ‘good Jesus’ to hold it all together then I’m afraid the show will fall flat on its face. This was definitely not the case here as taking on the massive role of Jesus was Matthew Szadura and he was not just good, he was absolutely outstanding. His singing and his acting skills were superb and matched by his natural stage presence, his interaction with the cast and the audience, infact, his whole demeanour, made him ideally suited to the role. He was warm, calm, gentle and enthused, as befits the part, but quite angrily depicted his frustrations towards the Lawyers and Pharisees in ‘Alas for You’. The rest of the cast were all amazing not only for their fantastic singing voices but also for their enthusiastic portrayal of the many and differing tasks and roles that they performed and to mention them all individually would be just a repetition of glowing superlatives. They were, Connor Lovatt (John / Judas), Evan Mason (Lamar) Mark Broadhurst (Herb), William Cousins (Jeffrey), Mattilde Stokes, (Peggy), Chloe Worstenholme (Robin), Freya Lancaster (Sonia), Lisa Bailey (Joanne), Mollie Myhill (Gilmer) and Cerys Johnson, Gabrielle Mason and Nicola Smith (Ensemble).
I cannot praise the whole cast enough for their incredible singing, whether as soloists or in smaller groupings and the harmonious ensemble renditions were fantastic. However I would just like to mention the trio that sang ‘On the Willows’ - Gabrielle Mason, Mattilde Stokes and Nicila Smith - it was so movingly and beautiful sung. The parables were all imaginatively conceived and terrifically delivered (loved the puppets), as was the choreography accompanying the ensemble pieces. The Last Supper leading up to the betrayal by Judas was brilliantly performed, you could literally feel Jesus’ tears as he spoke to God. Judas dramatically entered from the rear of the auditorium walked slowly towards Jesus but seemingly tries not to do what he has to do, finding himself ‘boxed in’, except for the one way that leads to Jesus! The ensemble become a raging rabble, and the ensuing beating and whipping of him was so realistically portrayed. The heart-wrenching outpourings by Jesus were so brilliantly achieved by Matthew and the fastening of him to a ‘stepladder’ and the tying of red scarves around his arms and legs by the ensemble (initially given to them by Jesus at the beginning of the show) was just so emotional. After taking him down from the ‘cross’ he was carried at shoulder height up the aisle - well, what can I say, it was tear jerking. The finale lifted everyone’s spirits as the cast rushed back to the stage singing ‘Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord’ encouraging the audience to clap and join in. I suppose Jesus returning to join them could be interpreted as his resurrection. The effective lighting, the props, the costumes, the back projections and sound, were all great and the small four piece band was first-rate. This was a most innovative, creative and well crafted show and every accolade must go to Director/Choreographer Joshua Mason, to Musical Director Melanie Gilbert, to an exceptionally talented, enthusiastic and exuberant cast and to the whole team for what was a superb piece of theatre. They say ‘All Good Gifts’ (and things) come in small packages, well the only thing small here was the venue, because the whole production was absolutely tremendous.