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BWW Reviews: GODSPELL Preaches Love at Actors' Playhouse

By: Oct. 18, 2012
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Those at Actor's Playhouse in Coral Gables clearly understand a thing or two about the importance of timing. While opening their 25th Season is a major event, so too is recognizing theatre's responsibility of inciting reflection and thought among its audience. While our collective social consciousness strengthens this fall, a relevant and well-placed show can actually have an impact. Without getting political or even all that specifically religious, Actors' Godspell places focus on the ever-growing importance of an accepting and loving community, a message well-received.

In nature, Godspell is the rare musical that offers a feast for a strong director; a blank slate begging for fresh creative ideas. Structurally, a meandering through line lies beneath a collection of parables meant to teach and reform. However, the world we are invited in to and its players who invite us can make the evening truly electric. Actors' has succeeded at least in the latter, assembling an engaging ensemble cast with enough energy to light the loosely apocalyptic set on which they each tell their stories.

As a blanket statement with definite exceptions, the strengths of both actor and director are seen more keenly in many of the representations of the parables rather than the music numbers. Director David Arisco has found several innovative and fun ways to utilize sweet-faced Henry Gainza, creative comedian Clay Cartland and boisterous funny gal Cindy Pearce who hop in and out of over-the-top yet believable characters almost on a dime. The addition of pop-culture references, audience participation and runways extending into the house on both stage right and left demand 100% attention be paid 100% of the time.

Kareema Khouri's powerful "O, Bless the Lord, My Soul" and Jeni Hacker and Heather Kopp's beautiful blend on "By My Side" stand out among Stephen Schwartz's light-rock hits. The tongue-in-cheek duet "All For the Best" sung and danced by Jesus, masterfully tackled by Josh Canfield, and Judas, a sometimes dark and brooding Nick Duckart, was the highlight of the evening, featuring Barbara Flaten's always entertaining choreography. Credit must be paid to seasoned Josh Canfield whose Jesus carries the weight of the show with the right amount of honesty and generosity strengthened by his rich and pure voice showcased well on songs such as "Beautiful City."

If this incarnation of Godspell allows us to see any faults at all, it may be in the missing dark, anarchic quality of the second act. The rebellion and dissembling of the community Jesus created was mostly brushed over, rushing to return to a brighter day when everyone sees the light and feels Jesus' love once again. Actor's Playhouse makes the choice to stress the sense of community and importance of loving your neighbor by creating a heartfelt inclusive atmosphere that extends far past those runways.


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