by Julia Doerr
Godspell, TADA Theatre, Thursday October 13, 2022 7:30PM
It was great to sit in a sold-out house for the opening night of Godspell at The TADA Theatre
Thursday evening. The cast was energetic and well-matched as an ensemble. No one performer
stood out from the rest, making it a group of ten Everymen (and women), quite appropriate for
the work. I particularly like the fact that the actors represented a wide range of ages, which is
often not the case for this show.
Director Bob Rook set the action in a city park, where eight different folks are observed enjoying
the outdoors in various ways before the arrival first of John and then Jesus. What ensues is a
round of baptisms and transformations, symbolized by costume changes into brightly colored
garb and a general coming-together of the characters. If you didn’t know this, Godspell is a
portrayal of the Biblical Gospel of the New Testament. Its content includes many of the
teachings of Jesus, particularly a number of his well-known parables, conveyed with lots of
“comedy, poignancy, and stellar music,” in Bob Rook’s words. I agree with Mr. Rook, though,
that one need not be particularly religious to appreciate the lessons about “life, how we choose to
live it and treat one another along the way.”
The show moves along quickly from one lesson to another and from one musical number to
another. Some song highlights for me were Jaci Manning’s rendition of “Learn Your Lessons
Well,” Julia Stubblefield’s “Bless the Lord,” Anna Christie’s strong alto in “By My Side,” and
the fun vaudeville-style “All for the Best” led by John Schnoor and Bonnie Bouc as Jesus and
Judas. Judy Anderson performed the racy “Turn Back, Oh Man” with particular comic aplomb.
I am a sucker for sad songs, so my favorite number from Godspell has always been “On the
Willows,” sung as Jesus is crucified. In this production, it is sung by the character of Judas, with
no harmony and without some of the high notes in the original version. Though I missed those
things, I found this adaptation added an appropriately stark drama to the moment. Moreover, I
now have a new favorite number, one I had not heard before. “Beautiful City” was written for
the movie version of the musical, which I have never seen. Then, in the 1990s, the lyrics were
redone for a production staged in Los Angeles to raise funds after the so-called Rodney King
riots. I think it’s an important addition to the show, about recovering from tragedy and working
together here on earth for the benefit of all.
“We can build a beautiful city, not a city of angels, but we can build a city of man.”
If you go: Godspell runs October 13-30 evening performances at 7:30PM and matinees at 2PM. For more info visit https://www.tadaproductions.info.
Julia Doerr is a retired high school English teacher and lifelong lover of theater.
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