Making a musical, “rock” or otherwise using the Bible as your source is not an easy task for a writer, either for the book or the lyrics. Recently we have been fortunate to see a smart production of “Joseph and The Amazing Dreamcoat” and the remarkable “Jesus Christ! Superstar!”, both with songs and spirit that linger in our minds. Now, Provision Theater Company , under the skillful leadership of Timothy Gregory is doing “Godspell”with a book by John-Michael Tebelak and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. In its day, it was a groundbreaking “Rock” musical that tells the story of the Gospel of St. Matthew and shares the messages of tolerance, kindness and love. The cast of players is energetic and talented and although they give it 100% plus, this is not one of my favorites to report on. The score has some lovely songs, with “Day by Day” the most memorable ( you might find yourself humming this one as you drive away from the theater, I did!).
Inseung Park’s set is stupendous allowing for many levels and crates that are used well by Director Gregory. The play begins with a group of young people, caught in a rainstorm, who take refuge in an old warehouse, a somewhat abandoned warehouse with many crates filled with various items that serve as the props for the rest of the show. One of the items found is a bible, and upon opening it and blowing away the dust, John The Baptist ( Justin Berkobien) appears and brings in Jesus ( a strong performance by Syler Thomas). For the next two hours, Jesus and his “new” followers take on many characters as we are told of the stories that are contained within the Gospel of St. Matthew ( well, not exactly, but very theatrical). Through the story we learn many great lessons that were the “word” of Jesus, many set to music. As I stated before the strongest song in this clever little story is “Day By Day”. I also enjoyed “All Good Gifts” and “By My Side”.
The young cast is one of great energy and playfulness, even with the audience as they communicate directly with them on several ocassions. This is truly an ensemble piece and they ar a bundle of energy and talent. The very sexy Tiffany Yvonne Coc, the funny Greg Foster, Maxwell Burnham, the adorable Sarah Grant, Frederick Harris, the delightful Richelle Meiss, The hysterical Kevin O’Brien,Jennifer Oakley, and Amy Steele- all very talented singers with great ability to move to the choreography ( somewhat limited) by Amber Mak. The five musicians led by Alaric Rokko Jans make the score less “rock” allowing us to hear the words and I thank them for that. Many “rock” musicals are so loud and blaring, the audience has no idea as to what the performers are saying. A note that I found interesting is that “Godspell” which means “Good Word” over time has become Gospel,
Provision Theater Company is devoted to producing works of hope, reconciliation and redemption. Works that challenge us to explore a life of meaning and purpose. “Godspell” certainly does this, and yet it does so without offending any one’s religious beliefs. I was impressed by the “Passover” meal where Jesus said the blessings over the Matzoh ( unleavened bread) and wine in Hebrew. I don’t recall seeing this done in previous productions. As I said, this is not one of my favorite musicals, biblical or not, but I found it to be an entertaining production and left the theater feeling good ( and humming “Day by Day”) and isn’t that what theater is supposed to do? If you have never seen “Godspell” , this is a production worth seeing and at a very affordable price. “Godspell” will continue at The Provision Theater located at 1001 West Roosevelt Road ( on the campus of the University of Illinois- Chicago campus) through September 26th with performances on:
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets are only $25-$28 and there is free parking. To order your seats call 1-866-811-4111 or visit www.provisiontheater.org