BWW Reviews: GODSPELL is a Valentine from Crown Uptown Theatre to Wichita
Come Sing About Love
Godspell, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (of Wicked, Pippin and Children of Eden fame) and directed by Matthew S. Rumsey is well into it's four week run at the Crown Uptown Dinner Theatre. Godspell, written in 1971, is based on the gospel according to Saint Matthew. Though based on the parables of the Bible, the script by John-Michael Tebelak, is not preachy, but joyous, celebratory, exciting and sometimes sombre. Jesus, the central character and our guide through the festivities, makes his bottom line very clear: love. In this time of socio-political tempest and tumult, we could all use a reminder. Regardless of your religion or spirituality, love is a lesson worth learning.
Let's Have Some Wine
The Crown Uptown certainly knows how to host an evening. The signature cocktails for Godspell are Gluttony, Lust and Wrath for $7 each. Gluttony is a delicious adult version of chocolate milk, Lust is a sweet, fruity delight that disappears all too quickly, and the Wrath is a spicy adventure. Be forewarned- Wrath contains Sriracha vodka, so it appeals to a very specific palate. As always, Kevin Gillenwater delivers a delicious meal- the soup in particular. A winter lager and smoky cheddar with broccoli is served in a mug. It's so good, you will want to drink it instead of taking the time to ladle it. The entrees included three choices- sesame crusted tilapia, grilled chicken with adobo buerre blanc or apricot demi-glazed pork chops, which were particularly tasty. Unfortunately, the desserts didn't compare with the rest of the meal, but it's hard to measure up after the entree.
All Good Gifts
One of the highlights of the evening was Miles Mattal, playing Jesus. A tricky role indeed, for most patrons have a concept of what they think Jesus would be like. Mattal was unassuming, but confident. Assertive, gentle, gracious and strong- you will want Mattal's Jesus to be your new best friend. Endearing, charming and captivating, he made the audience fall in love with him, with the energy and vocals to match. He truly captured the essence of the character. Additionally, the females of the cohort were fabulous. Each one had a clearly defined character, relationship with Jesus, and several memorable moments. Collectively, this powerhouse ensemble had tight, exciting harmonies (thanks to musical director Jesse Warkenton), voices that blended well together, regardless of the musical demands, sometimes frantic energy, which they then pulled in to make a point. Excellent direction indeed. Some particularly enjoyable songs included "Bless the Lord" featuring Injoy Fountain and "All Good Gifts" featuring Austin Stang. You cannot take your eyes off Fountain. She was having the time of her life. Stang has a flawless magical voice. The set, by Michael E. Downs, was astonishingly creative and held a surprise around every corner, which worked brilliantly with Dan Harmon's gorgeous lighting design. At one point in the evening, the singers and the orchestra got separated. Possibly the actors couldn't hear or a mic problem. Regardless, they handled it professionally. The choreography by Maurice Sims was fun and infectious. I wanted to get up and start dancing. At intermission, the audience is invited to join the cat on stage to take part in communion. A delightful touch.
All in all, I enjoyed my evening at Crown Uptown Dinner Theatre. They will wrap you up in their storytelling and make you forget you are in Wichita. Godspell will run Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Feb. 22. Shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (dinner served 5-7:15 p.m.) and 2 p.m. Sunday (doors open at 12:30, appetizers and desserts available for purchase). Crown Uptown Theatre is located at 3207 E. Douglas. Tickets are $50-$60 for dinner and a show and $35-$45 for show only. Call 316-612-7696 for more information or visit www.crownuptown.com