BWW Reviews: A.D. Players' GODSPELL Is Purely Divine
I am on a high. I just got back from seeing A.D. Players' production of GODSPELL. It is winsome, it is funny, it is richly textured, and emotionally true. I fear this review may turn into a gush-fest. I am not one who is easily moved to tears, nor do I quickly jump out of my seat to give any and every performance a standing ovation, but you can bet I was emotionally moved and I was happily on my feet at curtain call.
Steven Schwartz crafted the music and lyrics for GODSPELL, creating a lush foundation for this outstanding production. Skillfully directed by Kevin Dean, this production of GODSPELL has perfect pacing and great emotional dynamics. The cast is like a deluxe box of crayons- every color is fun and interesting on their own and they're beautiful together, too. Joey Watkins leads the cast in the role of Jesus. Watkins exudes a deep connection to the role, using a broad emotional range and pure commitment to every line and lyric. He is especially moving in the song "Beautiful City". His embodiment of the part was so warm and earnest it's no wonder he had the audience in the palm of his hand.
Agile and richly-voiced, Braden Hunt plays John The Baptist and Judas, as well as being the choreographer for this production. His performance is intriguing and nuanced, especially as Judas. Hunt's choreography is in perfect tune with the show's songs, creating a good marriage between music and movement.
Truly, the entire cast is a delight. Katie Fridsma, Jennifer Gilbert, Chris Pool, Stephen Hurst, Beth Lazarou, Leslie Lenert, Daniel Miller, Stephanie Bradow, as well as the aforementioned Watkins and Hunt, are cohesive and very entertaining. This is a group of actors who can handle both solemnity and humor with a sure hand. There are many funny moments in the show, including a gag about a certain reality TV star. Choreography in "O Bless The Lord My Soul" is laugh-out-loud funny. Comedic talent is in fine supply in every cast member, especially with Stephanie Bradow, who does a giggle-inducing Godfather impression, and Beth Lazarou with her raw, childlike energy.
This cast is very vocally pleasing, both individually and together, especially with the gorgeous harmonies in the finale. Musical director Jesse Lozano clearly knows what he's doing. Other show highlights include "Learn Your Lessons Well", "O Bless The Lord My Soul", "All Good Gifts", "We Beseech Thee" and "On The Willows". The lead-in to the second act with the reprise of "Learn Your Lessons Well" is a Stomp-inspired good time.
Is the show perfect? Well, no, there are a few minor things that could be improved upon. I know it's practically theatre law that the person who sings "Turn Back O Man" enters from the back of the theatre to start her flirtation, but in this theater space it doesn't really work. When adorable Leslie Lenert enters, only a portion of the audience can see or really hear her. I was sitting in the front section of the theatre and didn't see her until she was almost to the stage, about twelve measures into the song. And in the scene after Jesus dies there is, of course, audible suffering happening on stage, but some actors took it too far, making too much noise and detracting from the mood. Still, these issues are trivial amidst the warmth and incandescence of this production.
This exceptional GODSPELL runs through August 24. Get your tickets soon. This is a show that people may want to see more than once.
For tickets and more information: adplayers.org
Photo Credit: Bara Photography