Godspell by Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor, PA
December 3, 2018
Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School
“Prepare Ye” for a rock n’ rolling good time as Archbishop John Carroll High School lights up their stage for Godspell.
Godspell was first produced in 1970 with music by Stephen Schwartz and written by John-Michael Tebelak. Since then, there were many productions of Godspell, including the most recent Broadway revival in 2011 which featured an innovative and modern adaption of the story. Godspell made its world debut Off-Broadway, telling the story of many famous parables from the Gospel of Matthew through Jesus Christ and his disciples. The story follows Jesus and his followers to his last days and ending with the crucifixion.
On stage for a majority of the show, the Godspell Community created an enchanting atmosphere through the constant energy, even during heartbreak. Each interaction between the cast members allowed for the drastic mood changes throughout the performance. They continued to depict the theme of community even through the curtain call.
Leading the cast was Alex Brown as Jesus, who showed off all aspects of a triple threat while effectively progressing the story. With each backflip, Brown captivated the audience until his very last breath, portraying the role impeccably. His range of acting abilities supported the significant mood changes from the first to second act. Brown had a difficult task to lead the show with challenging vocals and acting demands, and he ultimately surpassed expectations and over-achieved excellence.
Kate Maginnis as Judas was a perfect contrast to Jesus. Her facial expressions let the audiences inside her mind which illustrated the reasoning behind Judas’ decision. Driven by Brandon Abiuso’s solo in “Light of the World”, the end of Act I had perfect energy and professionalism. Beginning Act II, Christiana Flores, who also played Socrates, belted the sultry “Turn Back O Man” which set the tone for the rest of the show.
The intense lighting choices and designs supplemented the actors and the story, helping to comprehend the parables within the show. Alongside the lighting, the unique stage formation allowed the actors to interact with the audience, enhancing the experience of being an audience member. The similar style of costumes and modern take on fashion increased the viewing experience.
Building a beautiful show and community, brick by brick, and heart by heart, Archbishop John Carroll High School certainly lets their light shine through their production of Godspell.
Review submitted by Nina Gold of Harriton High School
“Love thy neighbor as thyself” is a timeless adage that applies to everyone, regardless of religion, race, or gender. It was this message that the students of Archbishop John Carroll High School chose to celebrate in their production of Godspell, along with the universal themes of forgiveness, friendship, and community.
Rather than following a traditional plotline, Godspell takes the audience through a series of short parables, primarily based on the Gospel of Matthew. It preaches humility, honesty, mercy, and love throughout, and concludes by depicting the crucifixion of Jesus. The musical opened on Broadway in 1971 to great critical acclaim, and has received numerous tours, adaptations, and revivals since then.
With a difficult score and exhausting physical demands, Godspell is a rigorous test of endurance (both vocally and mentally) for any school to tackle. Nevertheless, Archbishop John Carroll High School dove in with unshakable determination and thrilling enthusiasm to produce a truly delightful experience.
Alex Brown as Jesus handled the challenge of leading the cast with impressive emotional depth and remarkable stage presence. He brought a certain tenderness and warmth to the stage in songs like “Beautiful City,” and his superb vocals were matched only by his unbounded energy. Kate Maginnis’ portrayal of Judas provided a sarcastic foil to Brown’s kinder character, and her variability shone in the honest and heartbreaking betrayal of Jesus.
The show would have been incomplete without a strong cast of supporting characters, most notably Brendon Abiuso and Christina Flores. Abiuso astounded the audience with his rock-and-roll-esque vocals and nonstop zeal in “Light of the World,” and Flores’ sultry, saucy, Fosse-inspired rendition of “Turn Back, O Man” was nothing short of electrifying. Although admittedly difficult to hear at times, the huge ensemble maintained a truly outstanding level of energy and enthusiasm, and stayed engaged from start to finish, a difficult feat for such a large number of actors.
The cast maneuvered well around a minimal set, and the technical aspects of the show served them well in their endeavor to tell their story. Everyone onstage handled minor technical difficulties in lighting and sound with professionalism and grace.
In a day and age where hate seems to be emerging from every crevice and crack in society, Archbishop John Carroll High School’s production of Godspell was a heartfelt reminder of the beauty and importance of love, forgiveness, and kindness to all.