Review: Godspell at A.D. Players

Chelsea Ryan McCurdy mid-song.

Photo by Pin Lim / Courtesy of A.D. Players

The set-up:
Players has pulled off quite a little miracle of its own. The company has succeeded in making Godspell, Stephen Schwartz and John Michael Teblak’s flower child story of Jesus’ ministry and last days, immensely watchable. They can not, however, transform this show into a good musical, but they try, God knows they try.

The execution:
Insufferably cute and slathered in whimsy, fit for Sunday school toddlers, Godspell is intrinsically preachy as it slavishly follows Christ’s teachings, mostly the parables, as the cast acts out the stories and morals with down home folksiness and let’s-put-on-a-show attitude. They play charades and pictionary with the audience, they hug and high-five, drop pop cultural references. It’s like being trapped in a Haight-Ashbury sacred kindergarten commune, only these acolytes aren’t smoking dope. They are scrubbed, still wet behind the ears, and probably not dealt a full deck. They play sheep and goats in one scene, the Prodigal Son and his envious brother and doting forgiving father in another, Mary Magdelene as Broadway vamp, jealous Pharisees and money lenders, the woman taken in adultery, wicked judges, the good seed and the fallow seed, swooning apostles (though no one is given a name, not even Judas), and, later, the accusing mob at his trial. Charismatic Jesus leads this merry band with fiery gospel sermons and impeccable goodness, showing them their way to eternal salvation.

All set to Schwartz’s semi-rock pastiche score, known for the hymn-like “Day By Day,” the show-stopping “All For the Best,” and the inspirational “Beautiful City.” (Need I remind you that Schwartz would later write Pippin and, yes, mega-hit Wicked.)

Nothing wrong with His message: Be good and kind, be truthful, don’t judge lest ye be judged, show mercy and forgiveness. We’re all still trying to live up to these universal redeeming…

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