One thing that can be said for Godspell right off the bat; Jesus Christ Superstar did it better…
Steven Schwartz’s 1971 musical, based on the Gospel of St. Mathew, was representative of the changes that would move theatre forwards from the days of the light opera and Rogers and Hammerstein; yet comparatively it has aged as well as Val Kilmer (which is to say terribly). And as much as I went into this production hoping it would be the Botox injection Godspell so badly needs, I was instead met with a stale directorial vision and a recycling plant of theatrical ploys used in order to make the show feel like it was relevant again. From the chalkboard wall with its tasteless coloured writing implements, to the posters of Putin, Trump and Kim Jong-un littering the space amongst a soundscape of machine gunnery, it became apparent that design, originality, and directorial vision had taken second place to simply churning out another production.
And yet from this directorial effluvium; in the “Overture” emerged the shining beacon that was the band, led by Dylan Pollard. Godspell’s band was (to use the words of a great man) ‘Wizard’. Tight, minimalist, and the driving force that seemed to keep the show moving in a dangerously confusing script, Pollard’s Band (and overall musical direction) was absolutely the tonic needed to add a verve to dusty old Godspell.
On the other hand the delightful cast of college and studio members was a diverse petri-dish of upcoming vocally gifted performers who did not disappoint, most notably Lulu Quirk, Abby Hoskins and a young man known as Samson Alston (who has an energy a kindred to a young Robin Williams). But in a grand irony, the saviour of Godspell was the ‘Guy-Next-Door-Jesus’ played with a delicious vocal skill by the well seasoned Central Coast performer Liam Faulkner-Dimond. Faulkner-Dimond’s perky and approachable Christ led the company comfortably and effortlessly through unsettling audience participation segments and mountains and mountains of parables in such a gentle yet exciting way that, had he asked me, I probably would have spun my atheistic views on a dime and joined his congregation.
Godspell’s technical elements left one wanting more overall. Mistimed lights and poor sound mixing may have just been an opening night stammer, but it left some audience members confused and unable to hear dialogue and at times vocals. Leaving some moments illuminated only by the lamps from the tech desk was also less than savory.
Coasting on previous success with small scale productions, Palm Tree Studios has overall disappointed with Godspell.
Godspell will be performed at 7:30 PM at Palm Tree – Performance Space 42A Fredrick St, East Gosford, NSW 2250 between Thursday 13 June 2019 and Saturday 22 June.