This diverse ensemble of seven talented people hits the mark.
★★★★☆ - Delicious
The interesting thing about John-Michael Tebelak’s book for Godspell is that producers and directors can choose the setting they’d like. For one of the original Las Vegas Little Theater (LVLT) productions (this is the third, to my recollection), LVLT co-founder Jack Bell set the play in an airport. This freedom gives incredible latitude for the creative process. That latitude had not been lost on this team. This is not your father’s (grandfather’s?) Godspell.
Granted, Director Hallie Lyons set this in a church basement, but she took the new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, who also penned the score, and let loose. This cast is having fun whilst proffering up the parables of Jesus of Nazareth.
Expertly assisted by Choreographer Jessie Miles and Musical Director Susan Easter, there are sight and sound gags everywhere. If you’re able to catch them, you’ll find bits from West Side Story (theatre), Saturday Night Live (television) and Chariots of Fire (film). And, if I’m not mistaken, Mama Mia and Chicago, or maybe Cabaret…or maybe it was Sweet Charity (all Broadway and film). Toss in the original You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx (television) and you get the picture; the menagerie of characterizations from each cast member is spot on. And funny.
Led by Joel Ruud (Jesus) and Anthony Gomez (John the Baptist/Judas) this diverse ensemble of seven talented people hits the mark.
Ruud and Gomez are both in fine voice; several other in the ensemble also stand out: Jessica Gaylor on the all-familiar “Day by Day,” Keaton Delmar Johns on “All Good Gifts,” and Easter, Gomez, and Johns team up for a gorgeous “On the Willows.” Yet, it’s the entire cast, blending perfectly on “All for the Best” that brought the house down opening night.
That is not to say there aren’t a few minor missteps along the way. In the Prologue (which is occasionally deleted in local productions for some odd reason) segueing into “Tower of Babble” (along with a couple other spots throughout) some sour notes were detected, perhaps due to opening night jitters.
Paul Iwanicki missed an opportunity with “Turn Back, O Man.” Moving center stage with an old stand microphone and a feather boa, going into full-bore drag queen the piece could’ve been a comedic standout. Whether actor or director choice, it was a lost chance to match the humor on display in the overall production.
The set by Ron Lindblom verily shouts church basement, replete with the little raised proscenium stage for the band. Lights by Ginny Adams invoke dozens of parable locales. Here and there, Ruud’s dialogue and lyrics were muffled for some reason, but Mike Olsen’s sound design doesn’t disappoint in the slightest.
You may not leave with salvation but, according to the playwright and lyricist, that’s not the point, anyway. What you will come away with are the tools to guide you through troubled times. You’ll walk out of the theatre thoroughly entertained, feeling good with a smile on your face, and maybe even a little inspired.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday through July 28
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre-Mainstage, 3920 Schiff drive
Tickets: $25 (702-362-7996; www.lvlt.org)
Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre; Director: Hallie Lyons; Musical Director: Susan Easter; Choreographer: Jessie Miles; Set Design: Ron Lindblom; Lighting Design: Ginny Adams; Sound Design: Michael Olsen; Costume Design: Rose Magee; Stage Manager: Cindy Lee Stock