Venue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), 14 Oct – 6 Nov, 2022
Original Conception: John-Michael Tebelak
Music and New Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz
Director: Richard Carroll
Cast: Stefanie Caccamo, Jeremi Campese, Gillian Cosgriff, Victoria Falconer, Alfie Gledhill, Abe Mitchell, Chaya Ocampo, Billie Palin, Quinton Rich, Jane Watt. Swings: Mae Li Cowell, Gus Noakes
Images by Phil Erbacher
Jesus Christ and his disciples are in an Australian pub this time round, in Tebelak and Shwartz’s Godspell. Much has changed since the musical’s first outing half a century ago, but Christ’s teachings about love never age. His popularity as a venerated figure, however, has waned significantly, and there is no question that increasing numbers of audiences will feel alienated by the religiosity that continues to surround his personality.
Director Richard Carroll introduces vast amounts of colour and variety to his version of Godspell, but there is unlikely anything that could convert, those of us who are resolute in our distaste for Christianity or religions in general, which remains central to this 2022 production. Jesus seems a nice enough person, but all that deification is nonetheless, very hard to take.
The show’s visual appeal though, is undeniable, with Emma White’s stage design providing a familiar warmth, along with the provision of multiply apportioned spaces, that helps with the presentation’s constant transformations. Angela White’s costumes are a melange of epochs, with a whimsy that establishes its characters as joyful and endearing from the very start. Peter Rubie’s lights are imaginative and ambitious, offering a delectable palette of luminal combinations that really helps to keep things exciting.
The ensemble beams with dedication; there is an intensity to their focus and camaraderie, that demands our attention. Billie Palin sings the part of Christ well, but her dazzling vocals prove not to be a substitute, for the charisma we associate with sect leaders of that magnitude.
It should be encouraged that we learn about things that are important to our neighbours. Listening to other people’s religious beliefs is often a rewarding experience, that is until they become overwrought and depart too far from shared realities. We have argued for centuries about the intricacies of what Christ had preached, but the damage caused in his name, by so many of his followers, are simply irrefutable.