‘Godspell’ revisits recent era

  • Dale Burrows<br>For the Enterprise
  • Thursday, February 28, 2008 8:59am

People say the devil is in the detail.

Not so. Not in “Godspell” at the Edge. Not unless the devil has the heart of a child and a flower child at that. This version of the standard-bearing rock musical that has been around insulting and inspiring audiences for 30 years is all tie-dye at Woodstock. It is pure joy.

To be sure, the Gospel according to Matthew structures the music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by John-Michael Trebelak — Schwartz and Trebelak being products of the sixties. To be sure, the parables, beatitudes, betrayal by Judas, crucifixion and resurrection that Schwartz and Trebelak write to, are all sung, danced and dramatized in the spirit of protest, peace and freedom.

Be sure also of the sense of celebration here, which probably gets closer to Matthew’s and the Dali Lama’s than Billy Graham’s and Jessie Jackson’s. It is grassroots Christianity from a childlike point of view; playful but not silly, teasing without malice, sincere but not naive, exuberant but not pagan.

Rob MacGregor steers the fine line between the word and the word made flesh. If it is true that Jesus embodied all the signs of the Zodiac, then MacGregor’s interpretation reveals the righteous indignation of fire signs, sensitivity of water signs, vision of air signs and good sense of earth signs. He rages against the Pharisees, consoles the street walker after saving her from being stoned, preaches on things to come, draws metaphors from everyday life.

Also, MacGregor is not above joining in in straw hat and cane for a little soft shoe. Irreverent or human as well as divinely inspired? Depends on your point of view.

Timothy Kelly is a cowering Judas and wild-eyed John the Baptist.

As for the disciples, Charlie Brown and friends would welcome them, no problem.

Buddy Mahoney is his big, blubbering, blundering, teddy-bear self. Andie Lee and Jennifer Michele in painted doll’s faces, do Punch and Judy without Punch. Kari Schertzinger, Kate Swenson and Kat Wamba, vamp you, trick you, almost flash you then trash you. Johnny Patchmatla and Mark Snowden aid and abet in pranks, pratfalls and cat calls.

Also, do notice. Producer-director-brothers Michael and Roger Kelley are on keyboards and bass and guitar. Actor-director, Bryan Vyrostek, is on percussion; and Patrick Shaw is on guitar.

This is high-energy theater plugged into the New Testament. The times in which it first appeared may not be so radically different from these we live in now. If, as Roosevelt pointed out, fear is the only thing we have to fear, then this “Godspell” can help chase away demons. Check it out.

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