CLO’s ‘Godspell’ – Not the ‘Godspell’ of Your Youth 

By MAC Hoover

Those who remember the circus-like frivolity of the ’70s might have been surprised at the new and edgier update of Stephen Schwartz‘s classic that the CLO provided us this week. This production is based on the 2011 revival. 

Photo by Mastt Polk

The musical is structured as a series of parables, primarily based on the Gospel of Matthew. The show began its life as a master’s thesis project at Carnegie Mellon in 1971. The ensemble is guided by the actors portraying Jesus (Roderick Lawrence) and Judas (Luke Wygodny) as the parables segue into the Passion of Christ with an illusion of the Resurrection at the end. 

Roderick Lawrence as Jesus – Matt Polk photo

I did not remember previous performances’ “Tower of Babble.” Still, I found it fascinating and a thought-provoking presentation of various philosophers that led to “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.”

The cast is incredibly talented. I was amazed and appreciative of the actor’s musical skills as they capably played multiple instruments throughout the entire production. This review would be too wordy to read if I expounded on each player. All were incredible actors, singers, and musicians. The casting was genuinely superb and diverse. 

Godspell reminds us of the 70s hippie generation’s youthful enthusiasm, camaraderie, and hopefulness. This CLO version contains current cultural nudges to focus its relevance to our “modern” times.

The social statements made by Godspell when it first premiered were serious ones at a time when Christianity in the United States was being pulled in different directions. Our society today is also at a critical crossroads. The message of Jesus, a brilliant and intelligent philosopher, is shared by the symbolic leaders of many diverse religions. One wonders if the message of peace, love, kindness, and humility will continue to prevail. 

The show was bright, energetic, and visually busy and may have been too frantic at times. Still, the talent of the actors and musicians was beautifully blended to provide an evening of top-notch entertainment.

Sadly, there were many empty seats as the theater competed with pickles and the Pirates. 

The CLO’s production of Godspell at the Benedum Center rums through Sunday, July 17th. For tickets, cast bios and more information visit https://www.pittsburghclo.org/shows/godspell

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