Stephen Schwartz’s 1971 musical Godspell is probably not his most famous work, it is, however, the first one I became aware of when, aged 13. I was granted a solo in my church choir’s performance of Prepare Ye which, it turns out, was nothing like Schwartz had originally intended (and not just because I was slightly out of tune). When I arrived at Cadogan Hall this evening I was expecting some quiet and gentle songs based on Bible stories. Those of you who are even slightly familiar with Godspell will not be surprised to learn this isn’t what I got.
The show opened with a group of young girls dressed in 60s tie-dye and fluorescent leg warmers setting the scene. Slowly but surely more and more young people dressed in psychedelic clothing, becoming the storytellers. The loud clothing choices completely matched the upbeat, party atmosphere of the show. Conceived and performed by young people in the British Theatre Academy, this was a true showcase of the talent which will be arriving in the West End in the next 10 years.
This show was conceived as telling the story of Matthew’s gospel to a group of children, who were invited to help out in this storytelling through a series of mediums including charades and reality TV shows. Taking on the role of Jesus was guest West End star Luke Bayer who performed the role with ease. He was totally believable as the benign teacher of the children. Additional West End stars made guest appearances, most notably Ramin Karimloo who temporarily silenced the party atmosphere for a moving rendition of Beautiful City, a particular highlight. Most impressive though was the talent on display from the younger generation. In particular, Bradley Riches’ expressiveness in his performance of All For the Best deserves a special mention. His facial expressions were a joy to watch, as was his clear enjoyment of the whole process. James Knudsen’s incredibly mature performance as a soloist in several numbers also showcased his vocal and acting abilities.
This was a highly modernised version of Godspell with several references to current affairs and popular TV shows. Parables were told through stories of Donald Trump and a strange version of Take Me Out (Take Me To Heaven). This mostly worked well and added humour to proceedings. Mobile phones featured heavily throughout, mostly being used for their torches. For me, this didn’t really work. Firstly, the torches were barely visible over the stage lighting, and the weird juxtaposition of modern technology with obviously 60s fashion didn’t quite add up.
Overall, this was a very entertaining night of theatre with huge amounts of talent on display. If this is the future of the West End then we have a lot to look forward to.
Review by Emily Diver
Full of charm, warmth and great philosophy, Godspell, the heart-lifting feel-good Broadway musical from Stephen Schwartz (Wicked), featuring such the songs Day By Day, Prepare Ye, Turn Back O Man and Beautiful City. It is being performed by a cast of talented new young performers of The British Theatre Academy, the award-winning youth theatre which has been set up to give young people who can not afford to access theatre training the opportunity to work with top creatives in venues around the country.
Director Dean Johnson. Musical Director James Taylor. Choreographer Thea Butler.
JESUS: Luke Bayer
JUDAS: Max Bowden
BRITISH THEATRE ACADEMY
James Knudsen (Soloist – We Beseech Thee, All Good Gifts)
Bethan Keens (Soloist – Learn Your Lessons Well)
Abigail Gilder (Soloist – By My Side)
Amelie Williams (Soloist and Ukelele – Learn Your Lessons Well)
Bradley Riches (Soloist – All For The Best)
Sam Akinyosade (Soloist – All For The Best)
Grace Jenkins (Soloist – Bless The Lord)
Jess Barnard (Soloist – Bless The Lord)
Bella Lewington (Soloist – Bless The Lord)
Jennifer Tarling Warner (Soloist – Bless The Lord)
Jocelyn Dale (Soloist – Bless The Lord)
Jasmine Harvey (Soloist – Bless The Lord)
Isabel Forward (Dance soloist – On The Willows)
Joshua-James Garricks-Bone (Dance soloist – On The Willows)
Flynn Timberlake (Soloist – Tower of Babble)
Zoe Forward (Soloist – All Good Gifts)
Timi Akinyosade (Soloist – Law and Prophets Rap, Breakdance Soloist)
Aaron Harvey, Adam Lett, Amy Sargent, Cheryl Tsuro, Eleonora Sorriento, Eloise Bone, Emily Waters, Evie Leeks, Faith Turner, Harry Blake, Harry O’Callaghan, Isaac Forward, Isabella Noury, Isabella Alphonso, Isabelle Leaver, Jamie Morrison, Kesia Bowness, Kitty Fransham, Lily Morales Lee, Lula Fransham, Megan Rutland, Milliie Gale, Molli Harvey, Luca Henry, Lydia Johnson, Meinwen Jowers, Olive Geary, Phoebe Heath, Rafaela Santiago, Rose Longmore, Ruby O’Callaghan, Ruby Gale, Samuel Phillips, Shane Tsuro, Stanley Sturgeon, Ted Sturgeon, Tilly Waters.
British Theatre Academy
GODSPELL IN CONCERT
Conceived by John-Michael Tebelak
Music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
5 Sloane Terrace
London, SW1X 9DQ
Saturday 29 June at 7.30pm