Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

December 5, 2011


Unitarian Society, Springfield & Monson, MA
through December 11, 2011

by Felicity Hardy
There are some shows that appear often in the area. "Godspell" is one of those musicals. The loose structure of the show itself, which is told as a series of parables demonstrated by Jesus, John the Baptist/Judas, and a ragtag group of clown-like disciples, is one left wide open for interpretation and reinvention. The one thing that can be said of "Godspell" is that the same version is rarely done twice.

Director Kathleen Delaney takes this a step further with a complete reinvention of the musical's structure. In addition to Jesus' main band of followers, she has added a Greek chorus, led by the mostly-silent character "Evry1" (played with mystery and commitment by Joshua Farber) designed to be "yang" to Christ's "ying." The chorus seems to have its own story to tell, at times antagonistic and at times adoring, but the already somewhat abstract structure of the show is both helped and hurt by this aspect. This abstractness adds further confusion to a story already struggling to tell itself clearly, but also delivers exciting visuals and innovative staging.

Another departure is the inclusion of "environments" – a series of vignettes introducing each of Jesus' followers as individuals, providing snippets of backstory. While the sequence is drawn out, and perhaps could have been better served with all actors on stage with scene shifts designated through lighting changes, it clarifies these characters.

Steve Pierce makes for a charming and charismatic Jesus, humble, funny, and personable in a way that makes it clear why the rest of the characters want to listen to him. Michael Lorenzo is brooding and dark as John the Baptist, serving as the group's sardonic rebel and lending both humor and drama. The rest of the group is a dynamic and cohesive ensemble, each with distinct personalities. By the play’s conclusion, they do feel like a family, and their chemistry as a unit is what makes for an emotional journey. 

This version of "Godspell" is one that takes risks in order to reinvent itself. Not all of these risks are successful, but the overall message of love and hope is still intact. It is a passionate and sincere production.