Motyer-Fancy puts on religious folk-rock musical
Mother-Fancy’s latest production, Godspell, is a far cry from Kumbaya or Jesus Loves Me. Director Paul Del Motte’s relevant and topical interpretation connects some of the best-known teachings of the Bible with timeless problems. Although light-hearted and noticeably silly, the production addressed some more serious topics that people often avoid in modern conversation.
John-Michael Tebelak’s 1971 folk-rock musical speaks the words of the Gospel According to Matthew, but pulls from Luke and John as well. The musical’s storyline begins with the baptism of Jesus and the gorgeous melodies of Save the People. From there the show weaves between catchy songs and old-school parable teaching which eventually leads up to the much darker second act – the betrayal and crucifixion.
With the dazzling of vocals Emily O’Leary as Jesus Christ, it’s hard for this show to fail. Her clarity and accuracy brought so much to the performance. Although O’Leary’s interpretation stood on its own, every cast member had at least one shining moment, if not more. Each character was valuable to the story and they were strong in their own individual ways.
The repetitiveness of the songs had spectators singing along, especially during Day by Day and All for the Best. At the end, audience members were humming the familiar tunes as they exited the theatre. The cast also shared communion with audience members by passing out grape juice during the 15-minute intermission, which was an interesting touch.
The first act, although kind of repetitive and noticeably non-linear, drew a lot of laughs through the telling of the parables. The cast portrayed these teaching moments through cacophonous and chaotic comedy sketches. While a bit annoying and loud, the message they were trying to convey was clear: the world is problematic, and these ancient teachings can still be used to address the problems today.
The songs and material of the second act were much more meaningful and chilling. The entire audience was captivated during the emotional On The Willows, which had audience members brushing tears off their cheeks. The haunting and dramatic finale included the crucifixion and an interpretation of the resurrection that involved cast members carrying Christ out of the theatre above their heads.
The music makes this show what it truly is: simply magnificent. But the storytelling left me asking, “What’s the point?” Up until the very end, the characters are just telling stories and learning together. Why are the two acts different in tone and style?
Although a little clunky, I feel that this dichotomy is effective with the overall tone of the musical. The non-linear show actually follows the story quite well with Jesus Christ leading and teaching his disciples through the parables. The first act builds the community, the second tears it down.