Godspell is a musical of songs and skits conceived by John Michael Tebalek. It is loosely based on the life of Jesus with a focus on those puzzling parables in Mathew and Luke. Bloomington Music Works’ show at the Waldron Arts Center has a nice mix of improvisational feel and ensemble polish in the production directed by Shawn Rieshael-Johnson.
Of the musical shows based on this material, Jesus Christ Super Star rocks harder and Leonard Bernstein’s Mass is deeper, but Godspell does a nice job of presenting its own focus and take on the story.
Music director Brian Samarzea has prepared Godspell ’s vocal ensembles well and he presided from the keyboard over a nicely balanced instrumental quartet. The cast takes on their varied and various roles with enthusiasm, grace and skill. Each cast member got opportunities for solo sections or numbers. All ten of them are good singers, though none was able to consistently fill the hall with sound. The in-the-round staging in the large room of the Waldron offered a lot of entertaining and interesting possibilities for the choreography and staging, but left me frequently straining for words from individual voices.
From Godspell’s music by Stephen Schwarz, probably the best known song is "Day by Day." The song in its first appearance and as the reprise has a certain bitter sweet quality of dogged endurance and potential hope. It nicely frames a story that intertwines the idea of the radically redemptive powers of faith and love and the equally radical concept of earthly success followed by eternal damnation. Schwarz’s music for Godspell is in a wide range of popular styles. There are blues, ragtime, straight songs, hymns, a Charleston and even some rave up rock and roll.
Bloomington Music Works offers a solidly produced, fresh feeling production of this minor classic.