Composer: Stephen Schwartz
Director: Kenneth Avery-Clark
Reviewer: John Roberts
Stephen Schwartz’s biblical retelling of the stories and life of Jesus’ times with his disciples is a strange beast. On one hand you have what Schwartz has become best known for, soaring musical melodies and powerful ballads but on the other Godspell quite possibly holds the title for the worst book of a musical ever.
This charity gala concert by Russell Scott Entertainment in honour of the children’s charity Make A Wish Foundation tries its best to bring relevance and modernity to this aging musical but never really succeeds. Musical Director and Producer Russell Scott in his final speech asks “Why hasn’t this musical been done in the West End for so long?” the answer..? Because apart from the musical numbers -which it must be stated are delivered with power and focus from the strong cast – the musical has nothing to redeem itself from moralistic preaching and shockingly bad book.
Despite director Avery-Clark along with his cast trying to modernise the text with mentions of Twitter, coffee chains and famous celebrities wherever they can, they can’t escape the cringe-inducing element that book reeks of, and one sympathises heavily with the cast for having to endure and deliver such weak material.
However book aside – the musical elements strike the perfect tone, the new orchestrations from the 2011 Broadway revival, takes a while to get used to, but the new rock-tinged landscape suits the concert format perfectly. Russell Scott musically directs with flair and panache and the small orchestra bring real life to Schwartz’s compositions. If you add to the mix the ensemble from The American Musical Theatre Academy and the Maida Vale Singers and you get a fully round and all encompassing sound, which can be very hard to find in these one of gala concerts.
Stewart Clark delivers a charismatic Jesus and shows just how versatile a musical theatre performer he is, equally at home singing the heavier rock numbers as he is delivering the quieter emotional ballads. Rob Houchen surprises as a rather cheeky chappy and really lets go vocally – showcasing just how rich a tenor he really is. Jason Broderick shines during his solo rendition of ‘We Beseech Thee’ while great support is given from the always engaging Jennifer Potts and newcomer Laura Darton.
For all of Godspell‘s flaws– the evening celebration is joyfully and rapturously received from the sell out crowd and should be commended on raising so much money for a worthy cause. One looks forward to seeing what shows lie under producer Russell Scott for future projects.
Photo: Darren Bell | Reviewed on 19th May 2014