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Broadway's Godspell: A Geeky Review

A few weeks ago, I was asked to review “Godspell,” which is currently on Broadway. I’ve seen a few Broadway shows before, mainly Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera, but I am no expert when it comes to Broadway. This is a whole new level of geekdom that I have yet to explore. Therefore, most of the review that follows is based on the story and the acting rather than effects, lighting, etc. In essence, consider it a review from an old-school Catholic “average Joe” reviewer.

I went to the show not really knowing what to expect. I had heard about it before, seen the advertisements, and vaguely remembered that it had something to do with Christ and the Gospel. It had also had good reviews. I will admit that I was somewhat skeptical about whether or not the show would remain faithful to the Gospel and was hoping that it would not be offensive. Considering how today’s culture seems to have a good time of misusing Christian doctrine and symbols for the sake of entertainment, I am a little too wary when it comes to religion in the media.

I invited “The Boy” to come along with me. He’s more of a film/media buff who has had experience in theater and making films. Also, I trust his opinion when it comes to whether or not a show is good (just don’t tell him I said so).

The start of the show was AMAZING. The actors and actresses entered the stage wearing articles of clothing or props with the names of the philosophers they represented. I recognized a few right off the bat…and was excited to see that Aquinas was among them! *Catholic Geek Squee!*  They sang fragments of their philosophies and battled for supremacy on the stage. It was a little difficult to keep up (I'm pretty sure that was the purpose!), but it was a faithful interpretation of just how difficult it can be to make sense of so many great minds…and how much confusion can arise if we lose sight of truth. These philosophers each fight to get to the top (quite literally once the ladders got involved), and are ultimately silenced by the voice crying out in the desert.

Hunter Parrish
Bradley James...
John the Baptist to the rescue with an amazing voice!  John comes to baptize all of these people in preparation of Christ’s arrival. Christ, played by Hunter Parrish, takes some getting used to. He was a great actor…but I was not a huge fan of how Christ was portrayed. I watch a lot of BBC shows…one of which is Merlin. In one of the episodes, Merlin casts a spell on King Arthur and temporarily turns him into a dunce. By chance, Hunter Parrish kind of looks like Bradley James (who plays Arthur).

I am under the impression that Parrish was attempting to play a docile and naïve Christ…but what I kept seeing was goofy Arthur. As a result of this and the baseball tee/corduroy pants wardrobe combo...Jesus came off as goofy (maybe that was intentional?)…even when he started teaching in parables. I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief at times. Don’t get me wrong, Parrish had a great voice when it came to singing and he was FANTASTIC when the time came for him to portray Christ’s anguish during the Last Supper and the Passion. He even did a great job with righteous anger when the time came for it. All in all, I really liked Parrish as an actor and singer...just not goofy portrayal of Jesus. My boyfriend, however, thought Parrish’s performance was overall fantastic.
As I mentioned before, I was a little wary about just how many liberties would be taken when it came to this Broadway portrayal of the Gospel. I was concerned that some of the material would be offensive and had my doubts regarding some of the wardrobe used (again, the baseball tee)…but there wasn’t anything too offensive.  I may be nit-picking here, but the only part that I could see as potentially offensive to some Catholics was during the Good Samaritan parable when a priest sees the beaten up man on the road and speeds off with a “I gotta go…I’m late for cocktails-at the Vatican.”

Yes, it was a pretty liberal interpretation of the Gospel…but I did not find it offensive. The essentials to each parable were still there and audience was quite visibly pleased with the show overall. The Boy and I enjoyed the music (very catchy) and were very surprised with just how entertaining the whole show turned out to be. There was audience participation, great effects, and a pretty fantastic set of voices (some of those female vocals were PHENOMENAL).  The acting was also phenomenal and the audience seemed to think so as well. I caught some stray comments at the end of the show…and heard nothing but positive things.
Even if you aren’t really into the Broadway scene, it was a fun show that seemed to pack in quite a lot of parables and moments in Christ’s life. 

The Boy was kind enough to snap the picture for me!
Overall, I liked it and probably would see it again (schedule allowing. It had a bit of everything. There were quite a few funny moments in the show…as well as serious moments that really brought some of the scripture to life. The temptation of Christ, for example, was a pretty well executed scene that I found to be quite powerful…as was the Last Supper. For a light-hearted show…they did manage to keep the solemnity of the Last Supper intact.  Christ’s sorrow as he says his goodbyes to his disciples was heart-breaking. Parrish did a phenomenal job during this scene. Again, Parrish’s strongest skills lay in the more serious points of this show. THAT’S when I saw Jesus and not “goofy Arthur.”

The cast was pretty great. It was a pretty chilly night, but a lot of them took the time to sign autographs and take pictures with the extremely enthusiastic crowd. I was among them…and even introduced one of the cast members to Saint Anthony after she mentioned that she had lost her phone in a cab that morning. Even Parrish, who was on vocal rest for the night, took the time to sign autographs, exchange a few words with well-wishers, and even pose for a photograph with this fool. 

All in all, The Boy and I loved the show and had a great time. 

I’ve been given a code for readers to get a discount to the show.  Follow this link and type in  GSPRD719  to get tickets as low as $79.50. The regular price is $125. 

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