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a Musical
by John-Michael Tebelak, with songs by Stephen Schwartz

COMPANY : Act 3 Productions [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Act 3 Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 5346

SHOWING : September 07, 2018 - September 23, 2018



A small group of people help Jesus Christ tell different parables by using a wide variety of games, storytelling techniques and a hefty dose of comic timing. An eclectic blend of songs, ranging in style from pop to vaudeville, is employed as the story of Jesus’ life dances across the stage. Dissolving hauntingly into the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, Jesus’ messages of kindness, tolerance and love come vibrantly to life.

The first major musical theatre offering from three­time Grammy and Academy Award winner, Stephen Schwartz ("Wicked," "Pippin," "Children of Eden"), "Godspell" features a parade of beloved songs, including "Day by Day," "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord," "Learn Your Lessons Well," "All for the Best," "All Good Gifts," "Turn Back, O Man" and "By My Side." This 2012 revival is a masterful retelling of the original sensation, injected with contemporary references and dazzling new arrangements.

Director Johnna Barrett Mitchell
Disciple Matt Alea
Disciple Michelle Davis
Jesus Stephen DeVillers
Disciple Jonathan Goff
Judas/John the Baptist Aaron Hancock
Disciple Jason Meinhardt
Disciple Jillian Melko
Disciple Riley Taylor
Disciple Natalie Wolff
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by playgoer
Friday, September 28, 2018
Act3’s production of "Godspell" is the epitome of why I dislike this show. The first act is a series of lame parables interspersed with tuneful songs. In order to make the parables "fun," the cast is encouraged to mug and ad lib as they roleplay the characters in the parables. The artificiality of it all sets my teeth on edge. Some people love the audience involvement and off-the-cuff throw-ins; I don’t.

That said, the Act3 production is certainly acceptable. It has some wonderful singers, several good dancers, and energetic, arm-waving choreography by Janie Young (with additional choreography by Erin Hamilton Marx). Mary Sorrel has provided props that flesh out the humor of the show. Music director John-Michael d’Haviland and the four-piece band furnish a fine musical background, and Ben Sterling’s sound design subtly shifts the balance from on-stage voices to amplified solo voices.

Will Brooks’ set design places two small platforms upstage, reached by a ladder up center and by stairs on either side, with the stage left stairs continuing up onto a large platform above the band. The upstage wall has a large wood gridwork obscured by an expanse of purple fabric pleated in the center that resembles a pair of angel wings spread out. There’s graffiti on some of the stairs and platform woodwork, but it’s not prominent. Ben Sterling’s lighting design illuminates sections of the stage where action is occurring, although with this large cast oftentimes the lighting is general.

Mari Miller’s costumes are the usual mish-mash of styles and fabrics for the disciples, with a white linen look for Jesus (Stephen DeVillers). There are occasional changes of costumes, primarily for dance numbers. Red ribbons are used to represent restraints on Jesus’ wrists as he is taken captive, then the blood flowing from him as he is crucified in the somber second act.

Staging by director Johnna Barrett Mitchell utilizes a trap door center stage that opens to reveal a basin of water with which John the Baptist (Aaron Hancock, who also plays Judas) baptizes the cast (and perhaps a few unlucky audience members down front). The staging is lively and does a good job of managing crowd scenes without making the stage look cluttered.

The performances are the reason to attend this show. Messrs. DeVillers and Hancock have glorious voices that they use to effect in the songs associated with their characters. The songs that aren’t associated with specific characters have been pretty evenly parceled out to individual singers ("Day by Day" to Riley Taylor; "Learn Your Lessons Well" to Jillian Melko; "O Bless the Lord My Soul" to Roan Denton; "All Good Gifts" to Jonathan Goff; "Light of the World" to Julie Ferguson; the reprise of "Learn Your Lessons" to Matt Alea and Natalie Wolff; "Turn Back, O Man" to Michelle Davis; "By My Side" to Alexandria McMath; and "We Beseech Thee" to PJ Mitchell). Jason Meinhardt, in a welcome return to Atlanta theatre, doesn’t sing lead for a full song, but is featured in "On the Willows."

This is pretty much an ensemble show, with Mr. DeVillers obviously at the center, as Jesus. He gives a heartfelt performance. Everyone else gamely joins in the fun, with Ms. Melko the undisputed standout of ad libbed vocal reactions. I was also taken with the performance of high schooler Natalie Wolff, whose sweet and true voice is matched by a sweet and true performance that never goes over the top.

Some people will enjoy the silly fun of act one; others will be emotionally affected by the second act’s betrayal and crucifixion sequence, featuring fine acting by Messrs. DeVillers and Hancock. (There were audible sobs from the audience at the performance I attended.) And others, like me, will remain detached from the onstage action, while admiring the talent and hard work that’s obviously been poured into this production. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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