GODSPELL debuted in 1971, following the phenomenal success of HAIR in 1968, becoming yet another anti-establishment (i.e. preaching love not war during the Viet Nam conflict), hippie-dippy (albeit soft) rock musical. But the award winning retelling of the last seven days of Christ had stiff competition from a British import which already boasted a best selling album by 1971. Where GODSPELL was sweet and ingenuous, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR was raucous, campy and immediately stole GODSPELL’s thunder.
The Turtle Lane Playhouse debuted with GODSPELL in 1980 – so it’s only fitting that the revival mark their thirty year anniversary, arriving December 9th.Stephen Schwartz’s catchy songs (Day By Day crossed over to the pop charts) lend an earnest glow to John-Michael Tebelak’s re-working of the gospel according to Matthew. Luckily TLP has a fresh-faced newcomer named Chad Moores to portray Jesus. He radiates goodness and light all over the place in Act I, in his cheerful yellow britches and superman T. (Act II reveals a testier Jesus, not entirely thrilled, understandably, with what’s coming.) NOTE: The role of Jesus is double cast and I only saw Moores. (Choreographer Jason Hair-Wynn is the alternate.)
More problematic than the material being so “nice” compared to SUPERSTAR – was TLP’s misbehaving sound system. At my performance, it alternated from not enough volume on some numbers to way too much, crackling at top volume and distorting the voices. (Maybe the devil was at work, considering all the attention to Christ!) But since Moores was so convincing as Jesus, I shall take his lesson about charity to heart and concentrate on the pluses in the TLP production.
All for the Best is aptly named, as it’s the best number in the show, with its cheeky vaudeville patina…with Light of the World a buoyant close to Act I. Kudos to director Lisa Rafferty for the lovely ASL in All Good Gifts and the touching tableau in By My Side…to Erin Beaber for her rousing Day By Day…and to costumer Richard Itczak for the authentic sixties garb. (Running through December 30th.)