Review by Liz Eichler of “Godspell”: CCM Musical Theatre
CCM’s “Godspell” is everything you’d want and expect from one of the country’s leading musical theatre programs. There is an abundance of energy, talent, great voices and dancing, and a richness of ensemble interaction that makes you leave the performance with not only joy for the message but joy for the school, too.
Director Katie Johannigman has modernized one of my childhood favorites and it works. The concept begins in a regimented Catholic school playground, where the high school kids are showing signs that the old ways don’t mix with their new spirit and questions about life and laws. A new “teacher” comes along who grabs their attention by allowing them the freedom to be themselves while living in community with others, explaining life’s laws in a language they can understand and own. AKA, Jesus joins the apostles, and teaches and empowers them to spread the Word. Word = Love.
Everyone in the ensemble gets a song or moment to shine. Alphabetically (well, it does start in a school!) Bryce Baxter owns the audience in “Turn Back, O Man” and Jack Brewer delivers a moving “All Good Gifts.” John Collins has fun with “We Beseech Thee” and has a a lot of great voices. Delaney Guyer brings the necessary quiet sweetness to “Day by Day” but can also go big in the parables. Jenny Mollet nailed “O Bless the Lord, My Soul” which is one of the most powerful numbers. Dylan Mulvaney has such an expressive face, awesome moves, and a great “Light of the World,” putting the exclamation point at the end of the first Act. Camila Paquet reaches hearts in “By My Side” and Madelaine Vandenberg helps us “Learn Your Lessons Well.” Madison Adams Hagler (John the Baptist/Judas) can juggle both roles, and has a mischievous smile that draws your eye and empathy, underlining that the real antagonist is society. Finally, Madison Deadman is a Jesus full of love, fun, and yet ultimately does the Father’s bidding, with a powerful voice, great moves, and commanding presence, shining bright throughout.
The set (CCM student Joshua E. Gallagher), costumes (CCM student Rachel Boylan) are simple and perfect for 2018. The set is the stone façade of St. Matthews School, under renovation, which provides the scaffolding the students use throughout. The clothing starts in uniforms, but then segue into Bohemian, quirky, a little goth, and personal, including an homage to an infamous green coat and the iconic Superman logo. Kudos. The lighting (CCM student Frank J. Viskup) is rock-concert active, effective, colorful, moody, and powerful. Steven Goers (musical director) turns it up to 11, guiding some beautiful vocals in many songs, including “By the Willows.” Johannigman also provides lively choreography expertly executed by the performers and exceeded expectations in “All for the Best.”
The show is barely 2 hours with an intermission (when the audience is invited to chalk up the playground) and it left me wanting more, wishing for a few more beats to savor the melancholy moments and feel more impact.
The next studio musical will be “Yeast Nation,” an area premiere by the creators of “Urinetown,” April 25-27. Free tickets will be available starting April 1. Visit the CCM Box Office or call 513-556-4183 to reserve. Limit two tickets per order.