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‘Superb & enjoyable musical treat’: GODSPELL THE CONCERT (Online review)

It has been the season for Biblical musicals. A short while ago, Joseph was given a concert treatment which was a celebration of both the musical and those who appeared in it. And over in Regent’s Park there is a concert version of Jesus Christ Superstar, which I will see this weekend.

Now, the marvellous Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester has co-produced Godspell The Concert with Ginger Quiff Media. In a year rich with Stephen Schwartz revivals – Rags, The Prince of Egypt, and the upcoming Pippin – this musical is a welcome addition to the vast treasure which has been made available for streaming in lockdown.

The score is filled with songs which infuse an audience with joy, sadness, laughter, the urge to dance, the need to sing. In the story of Jesus and his betrayal a sense of renewal is sharply felt and a story comes full circle. On the surface this is a show without complexity but it is in fact a deep exploration of the mystery of life.

Images of deserted streets, empty theatre seats, people in masks and more sit alongside depictions of the songs which range from simple rooms to inventive outdoor and indoor locations. The headings for each song (faith, hope, gratitude, loss, etc) fit well with the sentiment of Schwartz’s lyrics.

Conceived and directed by Michael Strassen, Godspell the Concert, is a superb and enjoyable musical treat. Featuring performances from Darren Day, Ruthie Henshall, Alison Jiear, Sam Tutty and Ria Jones, the lead singers are complemented by a talented ensemble from Italia Conti.

George Carter provides assured musical direction, and key extracts from John-Michael Tebelak’s book inform some of the pieces (notably ‘On The Willows’, which is strongly put across by John Barr, Jenna Russell and Sally Ann Triplett).

I particularly valued the sensitivity shown to the song ‘By My Side’, presenting it without additional flourishes. A more tongue in cheek treatment is reserved for Day and Matthew Croke’s vaudevillian piece ‘All for the Best’, Henshall’s sultry ‘Turn Back O Man’, and Jones’ broadcast of ‘Learn Your Lessons Well’ (complete with on-screen comments from the likes of “Doubting Thomas”).

Godspell is possibly the perfect musical score to guide us through tough times, whether you are of faith or not. The hope of support and resurrection anchors a religious view of the world, but the message is far wider, as we hear in Beautiful City at the end of the concert.

The show really is essential viewing (so much I watched it twice), and a ticket gives you access to the recording for 24 hours. Money raises supports the Hope Mill Theatre, Acting for Others and the National AIDS Fund. Purchase yours here for access on 27, 28 or 29 August.

LouReviews received a preview link in exchange for a review.

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