Godspell: A Review

Shotgun Theatre is the University of Exeter’s more ‘unorthodox’ musical theatre society, offering a social membership, inclusive ethos, and putting on dynamic and interesting pieces of theatre throughout the academic year. Their first term musical was the off-broadway production Godspell, originally written by Stephen Schwartz. I would try to explain what the plot of the musical is… but I honestly have no idea.

Godspell is also known as “Godspell: The Musical based on the Gospel according to St Matthew”, and that should hopefully give some kind of clue as to what it circles around. It follows Jesus and his disciples, running through various parables as miniature stories and songs that make the musical into a whole.  At least, I think it does – having never been particularly religious, I hadn’t heard of many of the parables previously and so didn’t really understand where the musical was going, or (for the majority of the time) what on earth was going on.

Saying this, I never lost focus or became disinterested with Godspell, and I think this definitely has to do with a great creative team, cast and crew. Joe Miller’s direction brought the stories alive through various means; humour, interesting and varied staging, puppetry, levels and light design all played a part in creating a enthralling performance. All the cast were highly engaging and their vocal talents were exceptional, both as a chorus and individually. Occasionally, there was a moment that you could tell one or two voices were tired, but otherwise it was beautiful, with well developed harmonies and a score that had me humming as we left.

The difference between the actors who played Judas and Jesus was a nice, stark contrast; Miller made a successful choice in blind-casting for his performers, resulting in Emily Lefoy being cast as Jesus. She carried the humour and severity of the character well, switching smoothly enough between the two that it seemed to confuse the audience and the rest of the cast alike; we felt their distress as their ‘master’ grew cold and retreated from them.

I enjoyed the cast as individuals as well as an ensemble, and though I didn’t quite understand it, the music and action was precise and polished enough that it made Godspell a thoroughly enjoyable experience. If you didn’t get the chance to see it, then you have unfortunately missed out on a wonderfully entertaining (if a little strange) evening.

Musically superb, visually eye-catching and delightful, Godspell had a fabulous cast and what must have been a great crew in order to pull this wacky, nonsensical performance to the heights it reached. Godspell was definitely a night to remember. Verdict: 8.5/10.

Shotgun Theatre’s Term 2 production, Made In Dagenham, is on at the Exeter Phoenix from the 16th-19th of January.

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