#1 Jillian Jasner
"Prepare ye" for an endlessly energetic and spunky production if you're off to see Godspell at Pennsauken High School anytime soon! The students of Pennsauken High School blessed the theatre on Saturday night as they spread the gospel through bubbly song and dance. Groovy lighting, a whimsical set, and funky, colorful costumes characterized the show and entranced audience members watching attentively from the house.
Godspell began as a theatrical experiment created by John-Michael Tebelak and Stephen Schwartz and grew into a successful off-Broadway run, a Broadway run, a Broadway revival, and several international tours. The show outlines several parables drawn from the Christian Books of Matthew, Luke, and John, and lightheartedly presents audiences with a series of ethical scenarios. The actors never exit the stage and performances are peppered with references to pop-culture.
Pennsauken's performance was enhanced by a strong, versatile ensemble and comical adlibs. Godspell is open to some level of interpretation, of which the cast made use. The script allows for individuality, which gave many talented ensemble members an opportunity to showcase their capabilities.
Godspell is a composition of several Christian teachings, so naturally Jesus (David Charris) takes center stage. Charris wowed audiences with smooth songs and peppy soft-shoe tapping, accompanied throughout much of the show by Judas (Antonio Candelaria). Candelaria provided a captivating complement to Charris, and the two together made a powerful duo in such numbers as "All for the Best".
Pennsauken High School's performance was anchored by strong vocalists. One particularly notable performance was that of Jenairy Gonzalez, who stunned spectators with her powerful rendition of "Turn Back, O Man"; other remarkable vocalists were Luis Vicente in "All Good Gifts" and Dyannalee Molina in "By My Side". In addition, Avi Lopez stole the show with his comical adlibs, and Eustacia Pyne-Bailey's lively dancing consistently caught theatergoers' attention.
Unfortunately, the technological aspects of the show did not always highlight the talent on the stage. Microphones frequently came on at bizarre times, and leads stood in the dark during critical moments. However, there is something to be said for the stage crew; the set accented the youthful vibe of the show and the colorful lights illuminating the ceiling of the theatre complemented the scenes on stage.
Pennsauken High School's production of Godspell was high-energy, enhanced by fabulous lead vocalists and dissonant harmonies. The cast was strong and the set was fun; audiences definitely "learned their lessons well".
#2 Erin Nevin
"Prepare ye-self" for a ride of colorful costumes and lulling vocals in Pennsauken's modernized rendition of the uniquely extravagant musical, "Godspell."
Originally written by John-Michael Tebelak for a college thesis, this 70's Stephen Schwartz-composed piece is about Jesus Christ recruiting a group of followers to teach them about a set of parables from different gospels through song and dance. However, toward the end of the second act, the plot turns towards the linear narrative of Judas' betrayal and Jesus' crucifixion.
Jesus, portrayed by David Charris, was incredible in his performance. His strong vocals alongside his emotional characterization, Charris kept a light-hearted stage presence all through the duration of show up until his heart-wrenching number "Beautiful City" and the crucifixion in "Finale," which had the audience in tears.
The supporting roles were also equally filled with talent. Antonio Candelaria who played John/Judas did a great portrayal in his two characters and in his numbers "Prepare Ye" and "On the Willows" which not only show how well Candelaria can sing, but also show his differing characters. A few other stellar performances captivated the audience. Soloists such as Yulia Abou Harb and Jenairy Gonzalez in numbers like "Day By Day" and "Turn Back, O Man" respectively. Their enthralling stage presences backed up with the undeniable vocal skills they both have. "Learn Your Lessons Well" soloists, Grace Raymond and Hailey Eisenhower, pulled a true showstopper with their belting abilities that put a smile on audience members' faces.
Other songs and soloists sharing in pure skill were Eustacia Pyne-Bailey and Athan Papaioannou in "Light of the World," Cyanne Alvelo and Alexander Duong in "We Beseech Thee," Luis Vicente in "All Good Gifts," Molly Moran and Danielle Smith in "Bless the Lord," and Dyanalee Molina, Aigner Settle, and Tatiana Gonzales in "By My Side" which showcased terrific harmonies.
However, the show could not be as vibrant as it was without the costumes, Andee Alcantara, Aleksei Knaus, Angela Nguyen, and Ana Martinez, and the makeup to match which was done by the PHS Cosmetology team. Together, they did an amazing job in showing the audience each cast member's individual personalities on stage. On the terms of creativity, Alexander Duong's Act II opening of "Learn Your Lessons Well Reprise" was very intricate and well-developed. And although some aspects of the story were lost due to some mic issues, the majority of their sound was clear.
Overall, this modern take on the bizarrely wonderful musical was brimming with pure talent and raw emotion, giving the audience exactly what the show's original message entailed.
#3 Amanda Pescatore
Prepare ye the way of the lord for Pennsauken's 2019 production of Godspell!
Written by John-Michael Tebelak and first performed in 1970, the musical follows a group of people learning the ways of the lord from Jesus Himself. The story uses biblical anecdotes to teach the audience valuable lessons such as kindness, friendship, and forgiveness. Pennsauken brings the 2011 revival of the classic to life, portraying the same story with a new modern twist. Using a playground as the set, this story and all of its dark scenes are shown in a child-like manner, relating to everyone in the audience.
Overall, everyone was equally important in this show. Since everyone was on stage from beginning to end, the show was full of wonderful comedians, vocalists, and dancers. Each actor/actress was full of energy and provided the audience with entertaining and emotionally moving talent. The way every cast member was able to play many different roles in each scene was outstanding. The overall creativity with the ensemble acting in the audience's seats to the musical arrangement done by Alexander Duong was extremely impressive.
The musical would not be complete without the beautiful performance by David Charris as Jesus. He is the definition of a triple threat. From his dancing in "All For the Best," to his emotional solo, "Beautiful City," every line delivery and movement was executed perfectly.
Antonio Candelaria's portrayal of John the Baptist and Judas was exquisite. His leadership and friendship towards Jesus were beautiful which made his betrayal towards him in "On The Willows," even more heartbreaking. Other notable performances go out to Jazcenya Gonzalez, Hailey Eisenhower, Nevaeh Jackson, Molly Moran, and Jenairy Gonzalez.
The technical aspects, while may have been lacking, did not take away from the overall performance. The use of all the microphones was very challenging and even when the microphones were not on, the audience was still able to hear all of the lines clearly. The projections used throughout the show helped relate the topics seen in the story to an era with social media and technology. The lighting and projections added tremendously to the show.
In conclusion, the lessons learned throughout this show are a necessity that everyone needs to see. So grab your communion cheez-its and learn your lessons well from this beautiful performance of Pennsauken's production of Godspell!