by Terrance Mc Arthur
Godspell: A stage musical based on the Book of Matthew in the New Testament, conceived and originally directed by John-Michael Tebelak, with music and new lyrics (Some lyrics are taken from hymnals and Biblical scriptures. Two songs are by Peggy Gordon and Jay Hamburger: “Day by Day,” from the Off-Off-Broadway version, and “Beautiful City, which was written for the 1973 movie.) by Stephen Schwartz.
Godspell: a light-hearted, high-spirited retelling of the ministry and passion of Jesus of Nazareth.
Godspell: a great way to spend an evening at Fresno Pacific’s Warkentine Culture and Arts Center, through April 22.
From the sound of the ram’s-horn shofar that announces “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” to the final notes of the last reprise of “Day by Day,” there is a vibrance and faith underpinning this production. The show can be irreverent, but it’s never blasphemous.Jeff Jones is a slim, gentle Jesus, with a confidence born of performing in several earlier productions of the musical. He can be majestic, he can be whimsical, and he can be fatherly. He leads the rest of the cast as if they were children acting out the parables which he uses to teach them. Traditionally, the costumes and make-up are clown-like or hippie-ish. Here, it’s as if a group of kids raided costume designer Brooke Aiello’s attic to play dress-up with items they found.
Alex Lujan starts the show as John the Baptist, then performs as Judas. He is powerful when John sings “Prepare Ye,” and light on his feet in “All For the Best,” a soft-shoe routine with Jones. As Judas betrays Jesus, Lujan is a combination of determined and ashamed.
Kristina Clark gets to sing the show’s pop hit, “Day By Day,” and it soars. Jeremy Salas is a veteran of Valley theatre, including several River City Theatre Company productions in Reedley, and makes the rafters ring with “All Good Gifts.” Alex “Ariel” Hodson, who stood out in the FPU cast of Harvey, bounced gleefully through “O Bless the Lord.” Cameron Ward has wild and crazy hair. Steph Gonzalez leads “Learn Your Lessons Well” with energy.
Brandi Martin directed, with lighting by Alexander Brush, musical direction by Heidi Orender, choreography by Anna James Miller, and acting coaching by tony sanders. Martin’s M.F.A. in Lighting Design shows in little touches, like the illumination on one wall that creates a cross-like image of shadow and light.
If you’ve read The Book, the story will be familiar, but the presentation will be new and entertaining, and might send you back to the source material. The parables include The Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, The Sower and the Seed, The Unforgiving Servant, and more, each presented with enthusiasm and humor. It’s like the Junior Sunday School class you always wished you’d had.
For tickets, go to the FPU website. The remaining performances in the Warkentine Center’s Lin Family Performance Studio, 1717 S. Chestnut Avenue, Fresno (Parking lot on E. Butler Ave.), begin at 7:00 p.m.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.
Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. You can also find more theatre coming up on KRL’s Local Theatre event page.