Godspell was first performed in the West End in 1971 and was apparently received well by everyone, including the clergy. Most of the press surrounding this year’s concert has focused on original cast members David Essex and Marti Webb… even though they’re not actually in it. This seemed to be a surprise to most of the audience who all seemed to think that David Essex was playing Jesus.
Sadly this was not the case, but the cast is a mix of fabulous up and coming West End stars who I have enjoyed watching in shows like Seussical, Barbershopera and Joseph. A group of great singers for charity. In theory.
So Godspell 2014. It’s been modernised to say the least, with selfies, Gordon Ramsay and Twitter all featuring. Not that the audience know who or what these things are as (in the dress circle at least) they’re clearly from the generation who saw the original show more than 40 years ago.
In fact the audience seems very unimpressed by the new version, which really is appealing to the wrong crowd. I’ve personally never felt so patronised during a show – it was as if a group of teenagers were trying to convince me to become a Christian by being ‘down with the kids’. It was just excruciating. There was no rhyme or reason, just Bible stories performed badly.
Most of the cast can act, but you’d never believe it by watching this – it was over the top and very amateurish and I was embarrassed for them. The whole show felt like a poor man’s Rent, with teenagers from the American Musical Theatre Academy sort of dancing around aimlessly and clicking their fingers to the beat. Nobody would’ve missed them.
Nobody even joined in the hand clapping, despite the cast’s frequent attempts to encourage them. As for the poor audience members dragged up on stage, they just looked mortified that they had to be a part of such a show,
But the singing was good. Better than good really – Rob Houchen gave a stirling performance of All Good Gifts and Jennifer Potts is just a delight to watch, although sadly even her energy and enthusiasm is not quite contagious enough for this audience.
Godspell is a classic show that was popular in its time. So there’s really no need to try and modernise it for a one-time concert version and unfortunately, Godspell was God awful.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Darren Bell