Eleventy thousand weeks since theatres closed their doors, we have seen an abundance in creative ways to keep theatre going - the most popular choice being online virtual shows. Now some theatres are beginning to open again, the choice in titles being created for online consumption seems to be slowing down but it's not dead yet! One of the more exciting titles to be made during the mess that is 2020 is a concert version of Godspell, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the show. Fans have been waiting for months to feast their eyes on this slice of stagey goodness. But was it any good?
Godspell opened off Broadway in 1971 (Technically that's 49 years but we can forgive them that considering 2020 has definitely felt like more than one year). Written by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak, the show is based on the Gospel of Matthew with the songs told as a series of parables.
We've all seen a lot of online shows by now. There is only so much you can do with the lack of a stage, audience and even being in the same room as your fellow cast members. The many inventive ways this concert coped with that hurdle was astounding - fantastic visual effects ensuring you were never bored and always wondering what was coming next. The varied locations each performer filmed helped add to the visuals whether it was Alison Jiear running around a Church with the spirits of a 100 strong gospel choir or Ruthie Henshall splashing around in a bathtub (more on that later), it was impossible to be bored watching this.
The jewel in the crown of this concert was the cast. What a bunch of talented individuals they gathered up for this show. From the opening of Jenny Fitzpatrick singing 'Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord' right up until the end credits, there wasn't a dull moment.
Dear Evan Hansen star Sam Tutty delivered an incredible version of 'All Good Gifts' proving with his immeasurable talent why he was given one of the biggest roles on the West end stage, The X Factor star Danyl Johnson showed his full range with a joyous performance of 'Light of the World' and Darren Day popped up intermittently to give it his best Jesus, reprising his role from the 1993 production.
One of the most memorable performances came in the form of a joint performance from Ruthie Henshall and her bathtub with immortal lines such as "I love a duck". With great visual effects reminding me of another Stephen Schwartz show - after all, we can't all come and go by bubble. The show culminated with a truly incredible rendition of 'Beautiful City' performed by Heathers and Six star Jodie Steele, told with such sincerity, it was hard not to get emotional watching it.
Godspell carries with it a message of hope and community. The show may be 50 years old but it is still timely as ever today, perhaps more than ever in these uncertain times. The use of imagery from the current pandemic brings a new relevance to the songs and the shows overall message.
I have to be honest. As much as I love Stephen Schwartz shows, I had never seen Godspell before so as my first encounter with the show, I did find it a little bizarre. I feel people would definitely benefit knowing more about the show before watching it than I did - but that one is on me! Hopefully it can come back to the West end at some point so I can appreciate it in its entirety. If it does, I would be more than happy to see some of the God tier talents from this concert be cast in it.
Whatever your beliefs are, this show succeeded in unifying an audience of people who share one great love - theatre. While some of us have been lucky enough to return to see some socially distanced shows, many others are as yet unable to and this is the closest they are going to get to seeing a show for the time being. As shows go, it displayed everything that is beautiful about theatre and was a wonderful hour full of flawless performances with one overriding message.
Godspell is available to stream until Saturday 29th August. Tickets cost £15 with proceeds going to three charities: The Hope Mill Theatre, Acting For Others and National AIDS Trust. Tickets available from https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/godspell