CHRISTOPHER SMITH SewellBarn Theatre, NorwichGodspell weaves its evangelical magic once again in an imaginative, swift-moving production by Michelle Montague that knows how to blend styles and traditions.
SewellBarn Theatre, Norwich
Godspell weaves its evangelical magic once again in an imaginative, swift-moving production by Michelle Montague that knows how to blend styles and traditions. At the keyboard Matt Hodges is an alert musical director, with Chris Beavis (guitar) and Duncan Walker (percussion) giving support when the big choral numbers suddenly lift emotions up on to a higher plane.
The audience reacts instantly, happily clapping along and entering, quite literally, into the spirit of this re-interpretation of the 2,000-year-old story.
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The present mingles with the past, in costume and attitude, in tunes and rhythms, as well as in action and words. The focus is on the preaching of Jesus in Galilee, on morality more than on miracles. The parables are brought back to life with a simplicity that gives them power, and the cast is just as successful in putting revivalist fervour back into some favourite old hymns.
Nick Lawrence plays Jesus. Tall, lean, authoritative without becoming bossy, he has the right kindly touch without ever becoming sanctimonious. His agony is no less striking for not being melodramatic or too long drawn out. Doubling as John the Baptist and Judas, Steve Jones is at his best when demanding attention as a prophet angrily commanding the people to mend their ways.
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Half a dozen disciples, if only half the Bible number, are enough on the Barn's small stage. Sharply differentiated, they respond whole-heartedly to every twist in the script, putting personality in some of the best-known stories.
With today's music, acting that reflects the younger generation, yet words from a rather old tradition of Bible translation, Godspell is an intriguing mixture. It still works, though.