DESPITE OBSTACLES, GODSPELL IS A “WINNING” PRODUCTION
The cast of the YMCA of Southern Indiana production of Godspell.
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz Book by John Michael Tebelak
Directed by Bryce Blair Choreography by Kathy Todd Chaney Musical Direction by Daniel Main
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright 2012 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Godspell is an exuberant production nearly swallowed up by a difficult, unforgiving venue. The cast performs with great energy, singing and dancing with reasonable skill and measurable commitment, but the cavernous proscenium within a gymnasium space dissipates that energy and allows an echo that would challenge any staging of any play, much less a musical. Limited lighting and sound capabilities further hamper the earnest good efforts of director Bryce Blair and his crew.
Yet, the good effort and estimable skills manage to make evidence of themselves despite the technical obstacles, and the staging attempts to make virtue out of vice by, for example, having the cast frequently come off the stage and use the aisles, since the lights in the auditorium had to be on during the play.
It also avoids the dated quality of the clown/hippie asthetic typical of many productions by keeping the costumes contemporary. But the music is what matters, and a four-piece band does a fine job with the score, while Musical Director Daniel Mann keeps the vocal arrangements tight while providing some intricate guitar lead as a member of the band. He is joined by Kim Hartz on piano, Ben Mattius on drums/recorder/violin, and Bart Jones on bass guitar.
The key roles of Jesus and John the Baptist/Judas are intriguingly played by brothers Josh and Jeremy O’ Brien, respectively, underscoring the bond between betrayer and betrayed. They are joined by an ensemble of Jason Potts, Jennifer Poliskie, Kathy Chaney, Brian Morris, Tony Singleton, Kira Tash, Jacque Singleton and Sydney Jones-O’Brien. Some of this group display better skills for musical theatre than others, and the staging places them carefully to achieve maximum effect. Kathy Chaney’s choreography keeps the whole group moving ( Godspell is a show that should be always moving) with steps that engage the audience without ever proving too difficult for the mixed skills of the performers.
Mr. Blair does pull a few rudimentary tricks out of his pocket for the finale, and manages to make this production an affecting one, even if one wishes he could have found a more welcoming venue, if only so that the talent onstage could have its full impact on the audience. Yet, one has to recognize a certain level of courage required to soldier through such challenges as bravely as this troupe of players. Finally, this is a winning Godspell, worth visiting in its second weekend.
January 20, 21, 26, 27, 28 at 7:30pm January 22 at 2:00pm
YMCA of Southern Indiana Performances will be held at the Griffin Street Center (1140 Griffin Street, New Albany, Indiana)
Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors/students
Tim & Dair Mathistad
Katie & Chris Haulter
Kathy Todd Chaney
Angie Reed Garner