Saturday, November 3, 2018


Conceived and originally directed by John-Michael Tebelak
Music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Directed by Emma White
Musical Director: Jenna Hinton
Queanbeyan Players
The Q Theatre, Queanbeyan to 11 November

Reviewed by Len Power 2 November 2018

First opening off-Broadway in 1971, ‘Godspell’ has continued to be popular internationally in revivals ever since.  It had its first Broadway production in 1976 and the music and lyrics have had some revisions over the years.  The show's structure is a series of parables, mostly based on the Gospel of Matthew, interspersed with a variety of modern music set primarily to lyrics from traditional hymns.

The show is really about the changes for good that the characters undergo as a result of the influence of Jesus and his teachings.  Whether the setting is realistic or abstract, the cast need to display clear and appealing character traits that we can identify with.  Get that right and the show can be profoundly moving.

It seemed a novel idea for cast and additional choir to sing the opening of the show on the steps in the theatre’s foyer but then the time it took getting the audience into the auditorium afterwards dispelled any atmosphere that the opening had created.

It’s not clear what the director, Emma White, was trying to achieve with this production.  It looked ugly and messy and the playing by the cast was uninvolving and artificially cheery with awkward, undisciplined adlibs and poorly executed physical comedy.

Alexander Gorring was an unconvincing Jesus with unclear diction and a lack of depth and consistency in his characterization.  The other actors performed as a noisy rabble with no individuality and no-one seemed to have changed for the better by the end of the show.  When Jesus says goodbye to the group before the crucifixion scene, it should be intensely moving but that didn’t happen in this production.

The usually delightful music score by Stephen Schwartz was marred by too many flat notes sung by the cast members.

There were frequent distractions pulling the focus from where it should be in a scene.  While ‘Beautiful City’ was sung by Jesus, our attention was drawn to excessive movement in the background where dinner was being served to the rest of the cast, followed by the washing up being done during the singing of ‘On the Willows’.  Staging the communion with Tim Tams and Coca Cola substituting for the body and blood of Christ was in poor taste.

The lighting design by Jacob Aquilina often seemed to have little to do with the action onstage and the actors were at times playing in shadow when it was important to see their faces.  Musical direction by Jenna Hinton was fine but the sound design by Kyle Maley was occasionally unbalanced between cast and orchestra.

‘Godspell’ isn’t an easy show to get right.  This production was misguided and a disappointment.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast in his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.