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Godspell

a Musical
CATEGORY : COMEDY MUSICAL
by John-Michael Tebelak, Music and New Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

COMPANY : Button Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts [WEBSITE]
ID# 2283

SHOWING : July 13, 2007 - August 05, 2007

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Before there was Wicked, Stephen Schwartz was dazzling audiences with his string of recognizable songs like "Day by Day," "We Beseech Thee," and "Save the People." See the parables of the Gospel according to Matthew come to life in this heart-warming tale of peace, love, and hope for the future.

Conceived and Originally Directed by John-Michael Tebelak
Music and New Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Originally Produced on the New York Stage by Edgar Lansbury / Stuart Duncan / Joseph Beruh
Directed by IJ Rosenblum


CAST & CREW LIST
Music Director BJ Brown
Director IJ Rosenblum
Choreographer Kristie Krabe
Judas Charlie Bradshaw
Doug Doug Graham
Glenda Glenda Tibbals Gray
Jesus Israel Hillary
Jameel Jameel Howard
Kristie Kristie Krabe
Cheryl Cheryl Rookwood
Chloe Chloe Zeitounian
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

God Help Us! Pod People!
by Dedalus
Monday, August 6, 2007
2.0
In the beginning was the play. And, so that you may apply the proper amount of salt to what follows, I need to tell you I despise the play “Godspell,” I have always despised the play “Godspell,” and, to be honest, I have faith that somewhere, sometime, an innovative production will come along that I will like and respect.

This is not it.

To be completely fair, if you are a fan of “Godspell,” you will probably like this production. There is much to praise in the performers. There are admittedly a few things to quibble in some of them (which I’ll get to eventually), but, by and large, everyone was in good voice and high energy (though to my jaded eye, some of the energy seemed force and strained). All the cast had wonderful singing voices, and displayed them well here.

My major criticisms, then will lie primarily with the play itself. Before beginning my rant, though, let me take to task some aspects of this particular production. I was initially hopeful of the venue, an in-the-round space with only two rows of seats around a very large playing area. I am a fan of in-the-round shows, liking the intimacy it gives between cast and audience. It does present an entirely new set of blocking paradigms for any director, which weren’t entirely met here. The main problem is, of course, sight lines and “backs to the audience” moments. Unfortunately, too many numbers were staged as static tableaus, meaning someone was always in a bad position, and so-called “strong stage positions” were turned backwards. Since static scenes are anathema to in-the-round blocking, only a small segment of audience are properly served by staging any number as a “tableau.”

Another unmet challenge here was the problem of acoustics. There was no amplification, so, when an actor was talking to the group farthest away, he or she was unintelligible. More to the point, when songs involved actors facing in multiple directions, the balance was skewed, and, frankly, this made most of the group numbers sound pretty bad (It was literally like the old Mark Twain joke about Wagner’s music – “It’s not as bad as it sounds.” Because the singers were all talented, the bad result was because there was no way to correctly mix the different voices for all the audience.

My second problem was a dearth of original thought here. This is a “by-the-numbers” production, with costuming and even a puppet interlude (badly BADLY done – didn’t anyone stop to think that puppets can never work in an “in-the-round” venue?) pulled straight from the 1973 movie version . A few moments of originality stick out pleasantly – some off-the-cuff interaction with audience members and a red-lit turn-table crucifixion scene, for example – but these only drove home the lack of inspiration in any of the other staging.

Now, the play itself. This script really embodies all the unreasonable excesses and biblical smugness that drove me into Atheism. This is not a spriritual leader anyone would follow, or even believe, let alone have any kind of devotion or faith towards. This is a cult leader, pure and simple. He is a supposedly charismatic man who spouts parables and “truths” without giving any reason or justification for them. This is a Jesus who always came across to me like a con man preying on dimwitted sycophants. And, the choice here to punctuate every line with snapping fingers and clapping hands made him come across as a used car salesman (“You want gold! {clap} We got gold in heaven!”). There is no reason to believe anything he says, let alone generate a “spirit-saving faith” for his words and message. And this actually makes me angry – I’ve never understood why “Blind Faith” is a greater virtue in the Christian world than Reason. And “Godspell’s” constant refrain of “You have to have faith to get your heavenly reward” is what usually makes me walk out of productions of this. (To its credit, I did stay to end of this one, if only to write about it sorta kinda fairly.)

Dramatically, the play fails on many counts, but let me discuss three. First is an unintentional irony. The characters are stripped of their “button-down suits” and uptight uniforms to become more free-wheeling and full of self-expression. The problem is that their idiosyncratic costumes are all idiosyncratic in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. They have, in effect, traded one uniform for another. Which leads to count two – there are no characters. These are pod people, all exactly alike, all responding to Jesus on cue with blind (and smug) praise. The program lists no character names, only the actor’s first names. There is nothing to respond to on an emotional level, no reason for us to take this journey with them. The point is, of course, to subsume self to your faith in God and Jesus, but I believe (with every ounce of faith that I have) thet SELF MATTERS! Without Self, there is no Humanity. Without self, you are not characters in a play, you are puppets in a Religious tract. And I can’t think of a single reason why anyone would want to see (let alone write) a play like that.

My last point is a rant about the songs. I love the music Stephen Schwartz wrote for “Pippin” and “Wicked,” but here, I dislike everything. Maybe it’s because I learned my New Testament from the sheer poetry of the King James translations, but to sit and listen to banal lyrics like “God I’m bleeding. God I’m dead” I want to scream. It’s taking a pivotal moment in the spiritual history of Western Civilization, a moment described in early modern English using the most beautifully profound and inspiring poetry, and turning it into a blurb from an edited News Wire. There’s not a song in this show I’d want to hear any time any where.

So, to be honest, this is a production that didn’t have much of a chance with me. I went because Button Theatre is new, and I firmly believe in supporting all new theatres (you can’t have too many of them). And I do hold out hope for an inspired re-conception to pop up sometimes (which is probably why I’ll also see Theatrical Outfit do it next year). But I swear I’m leaving at intermission the next time I see a by-the-numbers misdirected misconceived ordeal like this. I’d rather go to hell with the goats.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
The Definition of Class by Dedalus
When I posted this on last week's TheatreBuzz site, Kristie Krabbe sent me a nice note thanking me for my input and support, in spite of my negative words.

After reading some of the sniping that goes on here, I think I can safely say that she shows a lot of Class and Graciousness, and many of us (I can get defensive, too, after all) can take a lesson from her.

I do believe the players at Button show a lot of promise, and I eagerly look forward to their "Company," one of my all-time FAVORITE shows (which, hopefully, will stack the pseudo-critic's deck in their favor).

IMHO, a little less defensiveness and a little more point counterpoint will make this site the place to meet and comment.

Have a great week!

-- Brad
:) by KristieKrabe
**Blush**

Some additions/corrections/clarification by jayfoot
I will not be trying to start a fight but some of this may seem adversarial but that isn't my intention, for the parts that sound defensive that is my intention.

First you say this -
There is much to praise in the performers. There are admittedly a few things to quibble in some of them (which I’ll get to eventually)
Maybe I am missing it but you never get back to this point and that seems to me to be a major part of any review. Instead you spend 3 paragraphs describing your dislike of the source material, that isn't a review that is a critique. No one needs to know whether you like or dislike the source material when you review it. Review the show on the merits of the actual performance you saw and share that with the reader. If you want to rant about your dislike of the source material do it in a separate thread or article - it hurts your overall review and makes your legitimate points weaker.

Second you say this -
My second problem was a dearth of original thought here. This is a “by-the-numbers” production, with costuming and even a puppet interlude (badly BADLY done – didn’t anyone stop to think that puppets can never work in an “in-the-round” venue?) pulled straight from the 1973 movie version.
Let me quote the script for a second, "JUDAS and LAMAR stand behind the sawhorse on either side of it, holding a broom lengthwise to imply a stage floor. Using their hands as "actors," the OTHERS act out the following story with their hands along and above the length of the broom handle, as SONIA narrates."
I am currently looking at the DVD of the 1973 production and that production follows those instructions except for using the back of a park bench instead of a broom.
Did the production you saw follow those instructions exactly?
Did the production pull that exact direction from the 1973 production?
No it did not - It built upon the ideas in the script and presented them in a similar but different fashion. It is insulting to insinuate that it was plagiarized from the original production when it wasn't. The fact of the matter is the script calls for a "puppet" scene similar to what we presented and I happen to like sock puppets. Unfortunately the seats you chose were very poor for that 2 minute scene.

Third - I am assuming from the text of your review "too many numbers were staged as static tableaus" that you are talking about the musical numbers and I have to completely disagree with you on this - ONE and only one musical number was staged/choreographed as a tableaus and that was By My Side. All Good Gifts was presented in a circle but the soloist was directed, and did in every production, to play to all sides of the house.

I do agree with your and other reviewers complaints about the acoustics of the space but you sometimes have to dance with who you brought to the party. At this point in the Button's existence amplification of the actors just isn't in the budget, nor is the equipment to EQ and balance the music and singers.

I would like to thank you for taking the time to come to the show and support the Button Theatre but I don't think you need to hold reviews until after the show, even if you think they will hurt the show.

IJ Rosenblum
Godspell Director
Managing Director, Button Theatre
To Jayfoot by Dedalus
Thanks for taking the time for your rebuttal. For the record, I don’t think you sound “defensive,” but like someone defending his choices (There is a big difference).

I concede the point that I didn’t really get around to articulating my quibbles with the cast. I touched on the mannerisms Jesus used that made him come across like a used-car salesman, and I cruelly stomped on the puppet show. To be honest, those were my only real quibbles. I thought the ensemble brought individuality to their characters, and I though they hit the right notes musically (pun intended).

I also concede that the one tableau number may have affected my memory. If I were a stickler, I’d say that one is too many, but, again, that is certainly a matter of judgment and taste. It may be that others seemed more static to me because of my paradigms about “in the round” staging – if a sequence is held for more than a minute or two, it will seem static no matter what blocking comes before and after.

I will take issue with your defense of the puppet scene. It’s always a difficult choice for a director when something in the script is impractical to stage given all the constraints that have to be dealt with. And it’s a very fuzzy line indeed between what MUST be staged based on what’s in the script, and what MAY be changed to stick with a director’s vision. That being said, the puppet scene in this case could have used some more thought. “The seats you chose where very poor for that 2 minute scene” is a very bad precedent and mindset to make. If a concept doesn’t hold for even a part of the audience, isn’t it incumbent on the director to find a solution? What I really hated about it was that those holding the poles obscured some of the actual puppets, the puppets were held too low to be seen, and the whole scene seemed under-planned and under-rehearsed. And, falling back on the “it’s in the script” card is a weak argument – after all, try as I might, I couldn’t find any characters in your program named “Lamar” or “Sonia,” so obviously there is plenty of room for a director to make accommodations to his constraints and vision.

I will also take issue with the segregating of source material into a separate critical category, outside the scope of a “review.” I don’t believe you can separate them – the performance is what illustrates the material, brings it to life, and if there are problems with that material, it will hurt the production. I can’t, in full conscience, praise a good performance of a play I dislike (unless of course it makes me look at it in a different way). Especially in a case like this, where if I left everything out about the source material, it would be a relatively good review with a bad grade, and that just wouldn’t make sense.

I do have a question for you – why was in-the-round staging chosen here? It looked like a very adaptable venue, and changing the set-up would have solved the acoustics problem as well as all the other problems associated with in-the-round staging. It may have even added some intimacy and been far easier to light.

Thanks again for your response, and, like I said, I do look forward to your future endeavors.

- Brad

And to SleptAround – whatever it is you’re smoking, if my daughter gets her hands on any, I will have to hunt you down and discipline you severely (probably with a soft and smelly weapon).
Replying to Dedalus by jayfoot
Why in the round staging?

In my mind the biggest reason for choosing to stage the show in the round was to be different. I have seen many productions of the show and felt we could do something different with it by staging in the round.
I felt that in the round would assist with some of the technical problems found with a proscenium or thrust production of the musical - the largest problem for me is I feel that proscenium or thrust productions would need a backdrop or at least some sort of framing set for the show. Being on an extremely tight budget I didn't feel we could successfully pull that off.
I also felt that in the round would add more intimacy and would help bring the audience into the show more then proscenium or thrust would. Sure the first one or two rows in a proscenium/thrust setting feel a strong intimacy but people in rows 3-10 aren't going to feel that.

Our plans for our future shows; You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Barefoot in the Park and Company are not complete set yet but we have no intention of doing Barefoot or Company in the round.

As to the puppet scene - I will concede part of the point that if a concept doesn't hold for part of the audience a director should find a solution, unfortunately when staging in the round, we all know that some things will be obscured to some seats. There is virtually no way to get around this in the round and we can only try our best. In moments like this all I can say was when I knew I obscured something to certain seats I made a conscious effort to highlight something else to those seats.

Hope that answers your questions.
Meanwhile, Back Where the Grown-ups Are Talking .... by Dedalus
Jayfoot:

Your latest response opens up what may be a fertile ground for discussion.

Sometimes, it's all about choices, isn't it? The choices a playwright makes to tell his story, the choices a director makes to stage it, the choices the actors, musicians, and technical artists make to bring it to life, and even the choices the pseudocritic makes to analyze it. (And sometimes, trying to make the right choice is a little like herding cats -- the solution to a constraint or problem too often opens up a new constraint or problem.)

We could probably defend or criticize each others' choices for days, and it might even make an interesting thread (feel free to start one if you feel so inclined). Unlike the "Defensiveness" of the responses to the recent "Company" production(which, by the way, I'm sorry I missed), we can get a pleasant discussion that can outlast the run of the show. (I once read that the difference between a "Review" and a "Critical Analysis" is that the Review loses its relevance when the show closes, and the Analysis earns its credibility by its post-show relevance. I heartily agree with this assessment, and hope that my musings and jottings fall into the "Analysis" category).

In any case, thanks again for taking the time to continue this discussion, and just ignore the rantings of the kids at the card table.

Have a great Week!

-- Brad
Alas For You, Brad by Okely Dokely
Well, apparently even the Barry Bondses of theater reviewers can't always hit home runs.

Brad, you are the best theater critic I've ever seen who isn't a real theater critic, but I take issue with this "review," if you can call it that.

First of all, I didn't see this Godspell, but if you say that it is unoriginal, that's a shame. Unoriginality is the last thing anyone should see in a production of Godspell, and the last thing I'd expect from performers like Kristie Krabe, Cheryl Rookwood, Charlie Bradshaw, etc.

But the thing is, this wasn't a very helpful review. You mention very few specifics about the production which would inform a reader whether or not they want to so see this show. This was more of a rant than a review. You spend more time reviewing the religion than you do the show.

Also, you mention that you hate the music, that you love Pippin and Wicked, but hate this music. Okay, to me, Pippin and Godspell sound EXACTLY THE SAME. I know it all comes down to opinion, but I can't understand how one could have the complete opposite feelings for the music to both shows, because I think they sound so much alike, they could have been from the same show. I hate the plot for Pippin. Hate it hate it hate it. I am completely uninterested in it. I find it boring as a dog's ass. But I'm able to separate my hatred for the show from my love of the music.

You mention that "I’ve never understood why “Blind Faith” is a greater virtue in the Christian world than Reason." More on this sentence later.

You say you hate the music, then you give a whopping ONE EXAMPLE of a LYRIC in the show you don't like. For the record, I agree with you on that particular thing. "Oh god I'm dying" and "Oh god I'm dead" does not represent one of the prouder moments of the lyricist. But you completely fail to give us examples of why you hate the music (but apparently love the music to a show which sounds almost identical). So, do you care to give us a REASON why you hate the music, or are we supposed to take your statements on BLIND FAITH?

But of course, as a believer in God, I'm apparently just a pod person, so why listen to me? (No reason to insult those with different beliefs than you - you don't see me insulting Atheists in this comment.)

I am hoping that this was just a hiccup in the normally wonderful body of reviews that you have. I am also hoping that if you should ever put yourself through the torture of seeing another Godspell, you will be more specific about the show and helpful to the reader.
Don't Cry For Me Okely Dokely ... by Dedalus
... Even Ingmar Bergman had his "Serpent's Egg."

However (there's always a "however"), I do have I few defenses.

First, I've never seen my role here as helping readers decide whether or not to see a show. On the contrary, I recognize that what I write are my (often idiosyncratically personal) responses to a show. I will hold off some negative reviews precisely to AVOID having my opinions keep anyone from seeing something. I see my role more as a commentator, hopefully as a "starter of debate." I like writing about plays, and my number one goal is to create something that is enjoyable to write, is pleasant to read, articulates my reaction, and maybe throws some light on an aspect of theatre that's trying to hide in the shadows.

That being said, I tried to make this particular review an analysis of why any production of this play has a steep road with me. Since you're the second person to describe this as a "rant," I can only conclude my attempt at articulation was a failure. For that, i apologize and will try to do better in the future.

What I won't accept is the accusation that my column is an attack on Christians. I re-wrote it several times to avoid this, and I thought I was very clear in explaining I thought these characters were "pod people" because they abandoned their lives and individuality for no reason other than falling under the spell of a "Believe me or Suffer" huckster. For the record, if this play were about an Atheist gathering disciples with little or no effort, I would dislike it just as much. (Can you see a T-shirt-wearing Karl Marx leading his followers in a chorus of "Religion is the Opiate"? Makes me shudder ...) Also for the record, some of my favorite pieces have religious themes and subjects. And, if you'd like another analogy, just because I don't believe in Wizards and Magic doesn't make me like the Harry Potter books any less.

I think any debate on the relative merits of "Godspell" and "Pippin" may be irrelevant, given our likes and dislikes. Since your musical background is a lot better and deeper than my own, I'll concede any arguments you make on the similarity of the scores. Suffice it say, when I first heard the "Pippin" score, there were at least three songs that stayed in my head for weeks, and even now, after seeing four or five productions of "Godspell," I can't recall any songs beyond "Day by Day" and "Prepare ye ..."

Anyway, Mark, thanks for taking the time to respond, and I hope I do better by you the next time.

-- Brad
It’s not the spelling so much. It’s more about the math...
by line!
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
3.0
...the plusses and the minuses
(however “Godmath” just doesn’t have the same ring now does it?).

On Sunday July 29th my wife and I saddled up our camel and made the trek from stately Ellsworth manor in Woodstock to Gwinnett to see Button Theatre’s inaugural production of Godspell. The prospect of a new theatre, a new show and a new venue turned our journey into an adventure!

Our attendance was the direct result of some personal encouragement from cast member Kristie Krabe. I do not know Kristie that well, but I have seen her perform prior to this show and feel that she is one of the finest musical theatre talents around, so I was intrigued to see a show she felt so strongly about.

When we arrived, we noticed our friends “The Family Rudy” (pseudo-critic Brad, his lovely wife Barbara and their 6 ľ-year-old-daughter Julia) were in attendance as well, so we joined them on the front row.

I must admit that I am not a big fan of sitting on the front row because I always feel the need to be sure to radiate support and enjoyment (under normal circumstances I am not so facially demonstrative during a performance). I much prefer the anonymity of sitting in the back of the house with a good view. But the intimacy of the seating made the show a much more personal experience.

I had never seen Godspell prior to this performance (neither the movie nor the stage version), so this was a totally new experience for me. I was alive (a teenager in fact) in the early 70’s (yes I owned a pair of rainbow suspenders too)and was familiar with the overall style and character of the show and its hit song “Day by Day”. So I will admit to having some minor preconceptions.

As is always the case with any production, there were some plusses and some minuses (thus the math theme to this review). I will elaborate by category…

The Voices:
On the plus side: this cast is packed with talented actors who are strong singers with good voices, good pitch and projection. Even though most are “A+”, the others are at least a “B-“ and are not forced to showcase their weaknesses (as so often happens in other shows). All voices are splendidly matched to their material. Even the weaker voices do not falter or strain, but are weaker only by comparison, not by ability.
On the negative side: some of the dialogue was not as strong and well projected. There were a number of actors in the show who were “lions” when they sang, but became “mousey” or “mush-mouthed” when it came time to speak.

The Music:
On the negative side: Part of the fun of musicals (to me) is the extra emotional impact the music has on the story. This production chose (I assume forced to by budget) to use “backing tracks” instead of a band or accompanist. This transformed the show into “musical karaoke“ (which was disappointing for me). I would much rather have a single piano if you can’t afford a band. It’s a “live” performance and the pre-recorded backing really lessens the experience. The tonality of the sound system was thin and reedy which also weakened the “rock opera” experience. Many of the songs were dated and reeked of “the 70’s”.
On the plus side: the volume of the playback was kept at a level which supported the singers instead of overwhelming them. The music on the backing tracks was well played and orchestrated very effectively. The show still has a few strong songs that have held up well over the years. The Charlie Brown “happy dance” was cute.

The Staging:
On the plus side: the show was staged “in the round” which added a wonderful sense of intimacy and inclusion. The use of blank black boxes instead of backdrops or major set pieces allowed for creativity and flexibility. The lighting enhanced the emotions of the crucifixion scene. The turntable on the box Jesus was standing on was also a cool touch.
On the negative side: the show was staged “in-the-round” which meant that each side of the room missed something from time to time. The use of blank black boxes is kind of cliché and unimaginative. The lighting was ineffectual most of the time.

The Venue:
On the plus side: the theatre was clean, in a new building, the air conditioning worked well, there was lots of parking, and it was easy to find. The acoustics added a beautiful reverb which enhanced the ensemble passages.
On the negative side: the acoustics added a horrible reverb which did a serious amount of damage to the intelligibility of every solo or spoken voice in the performance. The air conditioning worked perhaps a little too well (it was positively frigid at times). The A.C. was also a little bit noisy and cycled on during a very quiet and emotional passage which caused further distraction and detraction from the performance.

The Play:
On the plus side: the Christians in the audience know the story and, if they are Baptists, don’t have to pay attention too closely (it’s just a little joke, OK?). When the play was new, it was shocking and fresh to have this story told in such a “hip” and “modern” fashion.
On the negative side: The story being told in this fashion now seems dated and trite. There are no new insights or perspectives contained within. The play is all about the style, not the story.

The Direction:
On the plus side: a wonderful attempt to creatively reflect the energy, faith and joy embodied in the story. The choreography was well executed. Staging “in-the-round” is difficult and there was a strong effort to make sure everyone got to see everything.
On the negative side: the energy, faith and joy frequently came across as superficial, forced and not always “honest”. The choreography wasn’t very distinctive and some of the actors seemed self-conscious and uncomfortable with their movements. Staging “in-the-round” is difficult and doesn’t lend itself to static staging of scenes (of which there were more than a few in this production).

The Costumes:
On the plus side: they were inexpensive and colorful.
On the negative side: It seemed to me that each person’s costume expressed their “individuality” in a somewhat “uniform” way. It wasn’t necessarily that everybody was wearing the same uniform, it was more that each personality was uniformly expressed (layers and kneepads and stripes, etc…) thus resulting in a lack of individuality.

Overall:
On the plus side: lots of good vocal talent and heart. This is a strong and talented cast who handled the material confidently.
On the negative side: the venue’s acoustics, the “karaoke” accompaniment, the somewhat dated and limited appeal of the material.

In this inaugural production, The Button Theatre chose to play it safe (and “broke even” in my opinion). They chose a well known musical with a few well known songs. In a musical, the most important part is the singing and they cast “singers who act” rather than “actors who sing” which was an important choice. Musicals are expensive to produce and they scrimped wherever they could and chose to stay within an obviously tight budget. They didn’t go overboard with their creativity by being radically experimental with their staging or direction. The cast was well rehearsed and the show was definitely ready to be performed.

All of their choices were very practical and smart.

Longevity in theatre is a balancing act between art and commerce. You need to have enough "art" to attract and satisfy your talent, but you also need to take care of business by attracting and satisfying your audience. There are plusses and minuses to both. If they continue on this course, I suspect The Button Theatre will grow into one of Atlanta’s theatrical landmarks. Like the song says “Prepare ye the way!”
-Rial
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Paint my face and call me a Godspell lover!
by MeisnerGuy
Monday, July 30, 2007
4.5
I knew I wasn’t going to go to church on Sunday, so I thought I’d make up for it by going to see “Godspell” on Saturday night. Apparently, I’m one of only a few people who has never seen the show or done it before, as was made apparent by the amount of Tye-Dye in the audience and people singing along. And I now see its appeal!

It’s less Jesus Christ Superstar than I was expecting. The show focuses more on the lessons taught by Jesus. The actors did a great job of pantomiming the stories being told (without the whole scary mime aspect of pantomime). The show moves at a very fast pace, and just as you are getting the gist of one lesson, ding! You’re on to another.

This is a new theater, so I was surprised to see the level of talent in this production. Two or three actors have done a lot of work around Atlanta, and the whole cast was very entertaining. I knew I was in for something good the second that Charlie Bradshaw started singing the opening number with a clear, beautiful voice. When the cast joined in, the harmonies blended really well. Chloe Zeitounian had a very sweet, yet jazzy voice for the song, Day by Day (one tune I did know!). Kristie Krabe wailed like a 80’s rock star on her solo, and then brought an amazingly beautiful sweetness to her duet in the second act with Cheryl Rookwood.

The comic here was Doug Graham who balanced out his outrageous antics with a sweet ballad that had the whole audience swaying. Glenda Tibbals Gray also treated us with a very funny, vampy number to open act two. One of the best moments was the rousing gospel number towards the end led by Jameel Howard which led into a very somber moment of the last supper.

I thought the Passion scene was beautifully done. Israel Hillary, who played Jesus had a great voice, but really gave an honest performance of Jesus. We were in tears during the crucifixion scene.

I thought the simplicity of the set was wonderful against the high energy choreography and colorful costumes. The lighting was very well done as well. I’m not sure if I loved the canned music track, although it was done very well. I’m not sure if a live band would have done well in that space, because it was a bit echo-y. I think they probably should have had some curtains along the walls to absorb some of the sound and a few of the actors might have benefited from microphones.

Overall, this was a great production by this new theater. I really can’t wait to see what they do with three of my favorite shows – You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, Barefoot in the Park, and Company next season!!
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