I do know that this Tony Award-winning pop musical centering around Jesus and the apostles has been staged from Broadway to London and back again, was turned into a film in 1973, and has been referenced in books, film, and television countless times in the years since.
Godspell began as a college project by Carnegie Mellon University students, later re-scored for an off-Broadway production that led to a long-running success.
The Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage has been transformed into a modern-day train station complete with departure and arrival boards, flipping through biblical destinations including Galilee, Jordan and Jericho. A colourful single railroad track sits smack in the middle. Characters approach the stage, a few interacting with the audience before the show starts.
The transit-themed production features cell phones, digital cameras, yoga mats and offers loads of fun Vancouver references that add spice to the parables. Star Wars fans will find a fun moment in here too.
From a sense of chaos, unity forms on stage with tight choreography (Sara-Jeanne Hosie, also the show’s director), brilliant sets and lighting design (Alan Brodie), sound (Geoff Hollingshead) and music (led by Musical Director Danny Balkwill, in the role of The Cop).
Jesus is a woman in this production; according to Hosie, “from the moment Jennifer Copping walked in the room, there was an immediate feeling that we would follow her.” Copping’s frizzy long hair adds a rock opera flair to the show (think Tommy meets Jesus Christ Superstar). Coincidentally, Jennifer and Jesus share something else in common: the same initials.
The stage not only cleverly resembles a train station but its panels also symbolize a church interior. Those large panels get illuminated when the cast pull a cord to allow each actor a chance to tell their tale, be it through music, storytelling or a game of charades.
As well, the cast create their own sound effects and accessorize their costumes (designed by Connie Hosie) during the show to great effect.
Key vocal talent is provided by scene-stealer Lauren Bowler as The Vamp, Janet Gigliotti (The Waitress), Craig Salkeld (Homeless Man), Katrina Reynolds (The Nomad) and Scott Perrie (The Misfit). We’re hoping to see 12-year old Aubrey Joy Maddock (who gets a turn as John the Baptist) in future shows. She’s bright and holds her own up on stage amongst the adult cast.
You may not get all the biblical references during the show’s two and a half hours (including intermission), however this fresh take on Godspell is packed with great dance numbers, creative touches, and a lively cast that will make for a good time at the theater.
Godspell continues through August 1 at Granville Island Stage. Photos by David Cooper.