A Godspell For The 21st Century

Welcome to 21st century Godspell, filled with audience participation, references to Charlie Sheen, Steve Jobs, Lindsay Lohan and Donald Trump, and wine served on stage during intermission. Set in the Circle in the Square Theatre, an intimate theatre in the round, this modern day production of Stephen Schwartz’s classic musical, veers from the original.

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While the story itself remains the same, many of the songs and much of the dialogue have been modernized. The actors take the stage with cell phones in hand, break into rap and beat box, pull audience members on stage to play charades and pictionary, refer to current events and pop culture, and even do the electric slide while singing “Day By Day”. At one point, a character says, “It’s your father. He wants you to add him on Facebook.”

There are no traditional sets. The story is told on a stage that is mostly bare, a trap door to a pool of water beneath, a ladder, and some other sparse props. Four guitarists are placed around the stage in the midst of the audience, a drum set is placed in the back row, and a piano is built into the stage. The focus here is on the energetic and talented cast. In addition to being strong singers, the nontraditional cast engages in some innovative maneuvers, at one point creating a person out of pieces of newspaper and at another ripping paper to simulate the sound of tap shoes. The direction by first time Broadway director Daniel Goldstein is sharp, witty, and youthful.

This is indeed a refreshing twist on the show we all know and love. Treat yourself to a fun night out. You know you deserve it.

Queen of the Mist – A tour de force… in a GYM…

The other night, I attended a show… IN A GYM. This was not one of my kids’ shows, but rather an exquisite bare bones production of a new Michael John LaChiusa musical that whisks you away to another world. Queen of the Mists is the true story of Anne Edson Taylor who, in 1901, attempts to jump down Niagra Falls in a barrel. Tony Award nominee, Mary Testa, literally leaves you speechless as Anne Edson Taylor. In her mind blowing tour de force, she is perfection in this role. As Anne says, “I am a phenomenon.” And she is. Mary Testa is supported by a larger than life cast and a brilliant vehicle of dense music, lyrics and direction.

The audience becomes completely invested in Queen of the Mist from two sets of bleachers opposite each other, just feet away from the action. There is a small orchestra down one end behind a screen, and the set consists of little more than an old piano on wheels, a bath tub, and pieces of wood on wheels (which they use to “row down the river”). The strong ensemble cast of Broadway vets each convincingly transform into multiple roles throughout the show. The brilliant music by Michael John LaChiusa, of The Wild Party Fame, is rich and sophisticated. A real treat after so many empty rock musicals of late. And the direction, by Jack Cummings III, ties it all together seamlessly.

Thank you MamaDrama for inviting me and thank you Transport Group for commissioning this brilliant piece. I might just have to see it again.

Treat yourself to date night in the gym. You will laugh and cry and are guaranteed to talk about something other than the kids the whole way home.

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