Review: Passion and energy on stage in Purcell Marian's 'Godspell'

In a long list of historically successful Broadway productions, “Godspell” is undoubtedly among the most unique. Purcell Marian High School’s recent production of this Biblically-based classic precisely captured the show’s trademark uniqueness, crafting a one-of-a-kind production, complete with creative vision, fine acting and entertaining music.

“Godspell,” with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwarz (“Wicked”, “Pippin”),   tells a modernized version of the life and lessons of Jesus Christ. Through a series of parables, Jesus imparts wisdom upon his faithful disciples (who are identified by white bracelets) throughout the show. As the musical progresses, the disciples grow increasingly fonder of Jesus and his teachings. The show culminates in the betrayal of Judas, and Jesus’ powerful, heart-wrenching crucifixion upon a metal fence rather than a cross. With a show that, in Purcell Marian’s case, utilized few props and a simple set, the staging was largely up to the imaginations of the “Godspell” cast and crew.

In a show heavily dependent upon the small ensemble of the Disciples, the cast of “Godspell” shone through in certain spots of the production. The upbeat, energetic “We Beseech Thee” cemented itself as a crowd favorite. Even though the full company’s vocals were shaky, their overall performance kept the show steadily on track. The creativity of the students was clearly a significant portion of the show and enhanced the production. The cast of “Godspell” certainly had their ups and downs, but in the end the positives outweighed the negatives, and Purcell Marian produced a solid show.

Cian Steele, in the role of Jesus, turned in a superb performance as the show’s protagonist. In the ballad “Beautiful City,” Steele demonstrated strong vocal ability with a voice that perfectly suited the musical’s rock-based score. While many actors appeared uncomfortable in character, Steele brilliantly displayed the wise, loving nature of “Godspell”’s Jesus. He also provided a powerful moment when crucified at the show’s conclusion. When the success of the musical was largely dependent his character, Steele delivered in very impressive fashion.

Jacob Lucas (Disciple Jacob), a standout among the Disciples, was thoroughly engaging in every facet of his stage performance. In his featured moments, Lucas owned the stage with his acting ability. Even when not directly involved in the action, Lucas still remained delightfully entertaining through great facial expression and a well-developed character, an area where other cast members struggled. As the featured vocalist in the enthusiastic “We Beseech Thee,”   Lucas’ strong vocal skills were also on display. Not to be outdone, Cassidy Steele (Disciple Cassidy and choreographer) amazed with a phenomenal ensemble performance, dominating the stage with excellence in acting, singing, dancing and creativity from beginning to end. In every scene, Steele commanded attention with incredible talent and theatrical prowess. Through it all they never failed to stay invested in the action, Lucas and Steele made this a focus of their performance.

Also serving as the show’s choreographer, Cassidy Steele successfully created a simple, cohesive theme for the musical’s dancing scheme, which properly suited the show’s musical score and the inconsistent capabilities of the cast. Some diverse costuming emphasized diversity within the show’s characters, and included an extra dimension to the identity of the production.

The cast of Purcell Marian’s “Godspell” certainly brought an extra measure of passion and energy to this intense production. Through great talent and imagination, the cast and crew truly made this show their own, delivering a neat, creative and passionate production.

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