Silver Center Gets biblical, brings down the house with “Godspell”

Cosette Brochu


Staff Writer 


This past Saturday, “Godspell” finished a three-day run at Plymouth State in the Silver Center. Since its debut in 1971, it has become a theatre staple around the world, famous for its small and intimate cast as well as its earnest storytelling. With a book by John-Michael Tebelak and a score by Stephen Schwartz, “Godspell” is a show about friendship, loyalty, and a love of Jesus and his teachings. Complex philosophical ideas are told by acting out parables or playing games, mostly taking from the Gospel of Matthew and a little from the Gospel of Luke.

What sets “Godspell” apart from other musicals is that it leaves most storytelling up to the interpretation of the actors and director. There aren’t specific settings or names other than Judas and Jesus, who only need to be contrary to one another. This can be an advantage for the right cast but can also create some difficulties if the show is not done with a strong concept in mind or with actors who do not fully commit. Due to its unique format, the weight of the show rests on the talent of its cast and their ability to tell a story. 

The cast and crew did a phenomenal job of making it audience-friendly. From the very intimate stage, where the seats lined the walls, to a clean modernization with ad-libbed jokes. Since the setting is ambiguous, Plymouth’s production of “Godspell” took the liberty of setting it in what seemed to be a clothing factory or a seamstress’s workshop. 

From the beginning, it was apparent there were no weak links in this cast. For a show that’s so dependent on its music, the singers were not only well balanced and technically strong, but sold the emotions of each song with love and anguish. Each performer seized the moment and fully committed to their parts, which is an especially hard feat given it’s such a tricky show. 

This production included the Tower of Babel, something typically omitted due to its distinctiveness from the overall themes. I was very glad to see this included because although it offers ideas that contrast Jesus’s teachings, it adds an element of different philosophical understanding of God by famous philosophers such as Socrates, Nietzsche, and Leonardo da Vinci, each of whom have a unique perspective or belief in God, but all admit the profoundness of religion.

This impeccable cast was led by the gently voiced Teddy Wilkins as Jesus. Wilkins, in all his height, effectively towers over the rest of the cast with a unique tenderness that is beautifully contrasted by Joey Goldberg’s edge and attitude. Wilkins almost seems to float as he moves around on stage and disappears into the rest of the cast during other’s solos, while Goldberg moves with intention and separates from the group quite often. The rest of the cast did not fall into the background. You could sense that each performer was having the time of their life and had a true appreciation for the art they were creating. 

Additional shoutouts go to the band, as they sounded gorgeous and there could be no show without them. Lovely vocalist Alissa Cutting stood out, appearing only for a moment and disappearing just as quickly. Some other strong vocalists I want to give credit to are Jackson Ploof for the emotion he drew from his music, Olivia Zottos for her strong vocal technique, and Meredith Hoole for simply being fun to watch. 

My biggest complaint is that the Playbill did the performers a great disservice by not featuring their headshots with their bios, and not putting their names on the headshots that lined the entrance to the theater. Excluding Jesus and Judas, the actors’ names are their characters, and by not labeling them as such it became nearly impossible to give credit to a performer if you did not know them beforehand. 

It should also be noted that this was an all-white cast. This is not a bad thing, but it may be something to consider when examining the purpose of “Godspell”; which is that anyone from any walk of life can learn something and embrace the teachings of Jesus. Therefore, it was a bit off-putting to see such a lake of diversity in a normally very distinctly different cast.

To divulge in some more nit-picky critiques; the sound system left something to be desired, as the mics were not turned up loud enough and kept the audience yearning to be further surrounded by their beautiful voices. There was also a distracting buzzing noise throughout that could be heard quite distinctly and occasionally drowned out the actors’ voices. The dance numbers saw a noticeable decrease in energy, despite the show requiring a consistent level of excitement and vigor. Finally, I would have also liked to see more complex vignettes and tableaux as this show prospers with dynamic and symbolic blocking, but this simplicity didn’t take much away from the show. 

Overall, “Godspell” was beautiful and fun. Each member performed strongly, even if the show may have lost energy and lacked diversity. It conceptually achieved a “VeggieTales”-like essence in the first act and a more serious love story in the second. It has been said by dramaturgs and directors alike, that if the show makes the audience feel that they are part of the pact and part of the story, it was a successful performance. I can confidently say the production was very successful, and the cast, band, and crew should be very proud of themselves.