Based on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the show presents a series of religious parables interspersed with modern show tunes. Songs are sung into hand-held microphones passed from one soloist to the next, giving the production a tongue-in-cheek element which is fully hammed up by the cast to great comic effect.
However, despite the light-hearted tone of the musical, there are moments of jarring sobriety in which the less joyous elements of Jesus’ life are depicted. These accumulate in a Last Supper scene, in which Judas has fled to betray Jesus and he must bid farewell to his disciples before he is crucified on the cross.
These closing scenes were surprisingly moving, with staging, music and acting all combining to create a genuine feeling of loss. A fantastically rowdy finale follows, with audience participation strongly encouraged.
High praise should go to the entire cast of Godspell who put on a relentlessly energetic and engaging performance, never flagging for a moment despite being on stage continuously. Much of the humour derived from their deliverance and timing of lines and the interaction they had with other performers.
Praise should also go to the live band that accompanied the cast; they had to negotiate an incredibly varied number of musical genres, ranging from rock to pop, to gospel to vaudeville.
Overall, Godspell was a flawlessly performed and well executed production, although both these factors became largely irrelevant as it was clear the cast were enjoying themselves so much that the audience would have shared their infectious joy and enthusiasm regardless. After all, it’s Jesus with added jazz hands; what’s not to love?