Gutsy ‘Godspell’ staging deserves an Amen
By Daniel Gewertz | Sunday, April 10, 2011 | Boston Herald | Art & Culture
When “Godspell” premiered 40 years ago, it felt more like a communal celebration than a piece of commercial theater. It was a uniquely hopeful era when an open-hearted, hippie version of Christian idealism seemed socially relevant. In time, the “Day by Day” wide-eyed hope of “Godspell” seemed more like naive joke than innocent vision.
The new staging of “Godspell,” a single-weekend affair put on by a brand new company at a historic Harvard Square movie-house, doesn’t reinvent the play for our jaded times. It does something harder: It’s a rebirth. Though it’s not a perfect show, it feels like a minor theatrical miracle.
A brand-new company, Moonbox Productions, led by Sharman Altshuler, has, in just a few weeks time, chosen and corralled a charming young cast nearly as talented as they are enthusiastic. Working in the terribly limited confines of the Brattle Theater, the players often jump into the aisles with song.
The only weakness was the Brattle itself. The superb four-piece band was placed, by necessity, in the back of the theater. That made the music too loud, except in the balcony. The Brattle's seating isn't graded for theater, either.
Under director Allison Choat and choreographer Jennifer Condon, the cast of 10 has captured the wit, heart and physical expressiveness needed to turn "Godspell" into both savvy theatrical entertainment and a communal celebration.
The most experienced actor is, appropriately, the charming star, Davron Monroe, playing Jesus. This "Godspell" not only has a black Jesus, but it styles Jesus as a lithe, debonair song-and-dance man, as dashing with a soft-shoe as he is with a parable. The cast has too many strong performers to name, but, as both John the Baptist and Judas, Jim Jordan displays a sophisticated, sensational sense of humor.