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Creepy ‘Godspell’ Sounds Off-Key; Quarterback’s a Girl: Review

Hunter Parish in "Godspell" in New York. The revival is running at Circle in the Square Theatre. Photographer: Jeremy Daniel/The Publicity Office via Bloomberg

Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) -- It’s a bummer when Jesus dies. He and his friends were having so much fun.

One minute he’s the “Light of the World” and the next minute he’s crying out, “Oh, God, I’m bleeding. Oh, God, I’m dying. Oh, God, I’m dead.”

No, really.

“Godspell,” which is being revived on Broadway for reasons that escape me, doesn’t get much deeper than that.

Based primarily on the Gospel According to St. Matthew (J.S. Bach drew somewhat sweeter water from the same well), the 1971 vaudeville by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak featured Jesus as a bulb-nosed clown.

His followers were a tatterdemalion bunch of folk-song singing hippies, hawking easy-listening numbers like “Prepare Ye” and “Day By Day.”

More old news than Good News, “Godspell” passed its sell-by date in 1978. That was the year Jim Jones and the cult massacre in Guyana heralded an era of charismatic leadership turned to evil and violent ends.

Updating the show with mobile phones and references to Donald Trump makes it no less creepy. Jesus (Hunter Parrish) can’t sing. The band sounds muddy. David Korins’s set and Miranda Hoffman’s costumes replace primary colors with dull tones. There’s one standout among the dreary supporting players: a star-quality mimicker named Telly Leung.

Daniel Goldstein, the director, and Christopher Gattelli, the choreographer, have drained the show of spontaneity. The result looks like Disney Audio-Animatronics.

Schwartz went on to write “Pippin” and the world-conquering “Wicked,” and several Disney movies. I’m not worried about any embarrassment “Godspell” might cause him.

At 1633 Broadway at West 50th Street. Information: +1-212-239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com. Rating: (no stars)

‘All-American’

Lincoln Center Theater’s new-works program, LCT3, is presenting “All-American,” about an unlikely phenom, a superstar high-school football quarterback who happens to be a girl.

Katie (the appealing Meredith Forlenza) is the apple of Daddy’s eye (C.J. Wilson, looking aptly like a former athlete gone to seed), he having been a pro quarterback. Katie’s twin brother, Aaron (Harry Zittel), has no interest in sports of any kind. Girls loom.

Their mom (Rebecca Creskoff) has escaped years of boredom by becoming a real estate saleswoman in Palo Alto, where they’ve moved in order to have Katie play on a contending squad.

I could go on, but why should you be as bored as I was? Julia Brownell, who has written for such edgy shows as HBO’s “Hung,” here comes a cropper with a play about teen angst that never rises above teen banality.

It’s hardly a crime against art, but given the high bar set by LCT3 and similar programs at the Roundabout Theatre Company, and others, it’s disappointing -- even at $20 a ticket.

Through Nov. 19 at the Duke on 42nd St., 229 W. 42nd St. Information: +1-646-223-3010; http://www.lct.org. Rating: *


What the Stars Mean:
****        Do Not Miss
***         Excellent
**          Good
*           So-So
(No stars)  Avoid

(Jeremy Gerard is chief drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Jeremy Gerard in New York at jgerard2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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