Godspell

Date 14th April 2017
Society Encore Productions
Venue St. Thomas's Church Hall
Type of Production Musical
Director Joe Clarke
Musical Director Craig Stewart
Choreographer Laura Cupit

Report

Author: Louise Colohan

Godspell is a very popular musical from the 1970’s, in which the audience is told a series of parables, mostly those based on the gospel of Matthew. Historically, different styles of theatre have been utilised in this show, such as; storytelling, cast acting out multiple characters in a scene and also becoming ‘props’ all used with the aim of bringing to life the parables visited over the course of the performance. With a score that covers many genres of music, a group is provided with an opportunity to really deliver a spectacular performance for their audience.

On arriving at the venue we could see the cast welcoming and engaging with their audience, from the outset this broke down the “Fourth Wall” almost instantly. Once Inside, the first thing to set the tone for the evening was a catwalk style stage with the audience facing inwards to the stage and perhaps more importantly, each other… giving a very nice intimate feeling in this otherwise village hall. Set in the middle of the walkway was a book titled “Parables”.

The opening scene, erupted with noise whilst members of the cast began a game of ‘Bottle-flip’, which gave the audience a great giggle. However it served to start a quarrel between the cast as to the unprofessional image being portrayed of the Musical society. The noise level increased and we were not really sure if this was indeed real or part of the performance, however the quarrel was brought to a complete halt by the entrance of John the Baptist, from the rear of the venue. These elements of modernisation made the show more relatable to the audience. Throughout the evening this was reinforced by references to Donald Trump, Facebook, and extracts of modern music, this was further complimented by some nice audience participation.

To say that the director had a very clear vision set out for this production would be exact. His flair for comedy was very apparent, equally was his ability to bring realism to the performance. Every person on stage was completely in character from start to finish. It takes a very good director to ensure that everyone is invested in and their own performance- Well done! There were so many great qualities in this production and I commend the director for his vision and making the production truly unique. You made this audience part of your vision without it being a pantomime.

Hats off to the musical director, I must say that on entering the venue and seeing the size of the venue, (with the 7 piece band placed on the stage), I felt we may have had some balance and volume issues. I need not had worried as the balance was perfect, never louder than the soloist. A sound choice (pun intended) was having the drummer use an electric kit as this certainly made a difference. The harmonies of the ensemble were impeccable and it was such a pleasure to hear these wonderful songs sung at such a high standard. Again, every member sang their hearts out and we could hear every word. A job very well done.

The movement within this production was of high energy to match the other elements, the dancers moved well and it was slick and served its purpose. Movement also gave us a quality comic moment in Andy’s contemporary interpretation of one of the parable's.

Josh Hankey was the perfect casting for Jesus, a fine actor which really became apparent in act two. In act one his character was softer (As you would expect from a teacher). He had great comic timing and he worked very well within the cast, establishing his role as the storyteller. Equipped with the voice of an angel, his vocals were on point and golden to the ear. “On the Willows” was a standout vocal performance from this young man. He demanded attention and he got it.

Jake Hankey, playing John the Baptist and doubling up as Judas, he gave a great performance. His presence was perfect for this role, his interaction with the audience alongside his comic timing made him a joy to watch. He had a very beautiful moment in act two, when portraying Judas, we could see him behind Jesus on the cross and his emotion was heart-breaking to watch. He and Josh worked very well together. His entrance of “Prepare Ye” was hair raising, another exceptional voice.

To have so many great voices in the one production really bowled me over. Everyone was cast very well with the style of music suiting everyone and displaying them at their best. Mentions must go to Laura, Rachel, Andy, Abby, Katie, Charlotte, Paige-Marie, and Neil. A personal favourite on the night was “By my Side” I very much appreciated the emotion portrayed. Well done to you all for a very polished performance.

The visuals were well received and the lighting plot was simple and effective throughout. The operator certainly did a good job and the sections being used were always lit when required. Some nice touches with the lights coming up as the main characters moved along the catwalk stage. It worked very well. Due to the size and layout of the venue we did have some light overspill into the first row of the audience but it didn’t affect the production and certainly didn’t bother my eyes. The only suggestion I would have made was that, I would have liked to have seen Jesus in a spot when he was on the cross, I felt the scene needed darkening for his lines to emphasis the gravity of the moment. Also to have caught Judas within that spot would have been very effective. That being said it is only a suggestion.

Overall the show was a real pleasure to watch, a wonderful production. You have a very talented group and we could see the fun you all had together. The audience were immersed from the start and we all felt a part of the production. The addition of the ‘god squad’ bracelets were genius and keeping the cast within the audience really gave it the extra energy so often lost in this production. A perfect venue for an intimate experience we shall not forget soon.