By: Alex Spindler ~Arts & Entertainment Editor~
The Xavier Department of Music and Theatre premiered Stephen Schwartz’s parable-infused musical “Godspell” to both guffaws and tears.
Based on the Gospel according to Matthew, “Godspell” gathers a motley crew of 12 seemingly-professional John and Jane Does who have been distracted from Jesus’ word for too long. Through catchy melodies – written by Schwartz, famed for his blockbusters “Wicked” and “Pippin” – and light-hearted humor, “Godspell” leads its disciples and audience members on the Messiah’s journey to redemption, compassion and a greater appreciation for the fellow man. While matinée performances are notorious for unreceptive audience members and sluggish energy, this ensemble brought vitality into every song and story.
Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the infectious energy and impromptu audience interactions the most, making up for blending and choreographic mess-ups throughout the production. Though not every cast member provided the same level of dedication to the dance moves and harmonies as others, the numbers which required a full ensemble stood apart from the rest.
Brandon Langjahr, leading the group as Jesus Christ, portrayed the perfect amount of sensitivity, care and wisdom required for a character as complex as the Son of God. His voice soared in “Beautiful City” yet wept with sorrow during his ultimate crucifixion. Eric Minion, playing the dual role of John the Baptist and Judas Iscariot, switched easily between roles and displayed the tenacity and bite necessary for both characters.
Though unnamed (save moments when they called each other by their own names), members of the ensemble shined in moments of hilarity and despair. First-year Taylor Haas has perfect comedic timing with ukulele- playing skills to boot. Senior Megan Hostetler’s haunting alto was an apt fit to “By my Side,” while junior Maya Farhat’s belt provided the essential Gospel flavor to “O Bless the Lord my Soul.” Despite Stephen Schwartz’s score and John Michael Tebelak’s
book seeming a bit outdated and more equipped for a 1970s audience, the revitalized arrangements (beautifully directed by Scot Buzza) brought these triedand- true pop hymns into the 21st century.
The technical aspects were fluid and meshed together well. Senior Alice Trent’s lightning design never ceases to amaze while senior Alana Yurczyk continues her streak of minimalistic and inventive scenic design hits with “The Last Five Years” and now “Godspell.” Sophomore August Dice’s sound design cues also left an impression.
Cincinnati favorite Dee Anne Bryll, taking the helm as both director and choreographer, returns to Xavier Theatre with an entertaining and family-friendly musical that is sure to delight during the university’s Family Weekend.
While certain moments of the show fell flat in terms of emotion or cohesion of song and dance, “Godspell” enlightens through and through. The show runs Oct. 24-25 during Family Weekend.