Directed for Pinelands Players by Roché Haupt Buckle
Musical Director – Justin Wardle
Choreography – Kerry-Lee Knott-Craig
Artscape Arena 15 – 24 April 2011
Lieske Bester reviews.
This exhilarating and colourful musical was Des and Dawn Lindberg’s first major musical venture. It was also the first racially mixed professional production on stage and in the audience. It was banned, contested in court and the Lindbergs won the case. The South African tour turned out to be a political mile stone. I saw a performance at UCT – one of those theatrical experiences that are etched in the mind.
I was disappointed by the monochrome casting of this presentation, although the impressive diversity in characterisation goes a long way to compensate. Setting the scene in Cape Town is innovative and appropriate and Waldo Buckle’s setting of a small Kalk Bay eatery makes for a great start.
The musical interpretation of the songs and the uncomplicated choreography are delightfully authentic but the scattering of American accents detracts. A more general Safrican speech pattern in this universal script would also blend better with the hilarious parable of the Prodigal Son – which showcases the talented and sustained performance of Byron Bure.
This GODSPELL is a marvel of youth, energy, agility, facial expression and body language. Best of all there is a constant and sincere awareness of the basics of acting; ‘where, who and what”. Add in the splendid voices of each and every cast member, superb harmonizing, synchronisation of movement and an obvious fellowship and pleasure in interaction – it is not surprising that every segment of this play is a visual and vocal pleasure with clear evidence of detailed direction.
You don’t know how familiar and beautiful the songs are until you hear them. The audience is spontaneously drawn in with the stirring Prepare ye the Way (Greg Tinney), the yearning Day by Day (Maryanne van Eyssen), the cautionary Learn Your Lesson Well (Jennifer Moss) and the jubilant Oh Bless the Lord, My Soul (Allana Aldridge). All Good Gifts (Gary Kiewitz) and Light of the World end the first Act in high spirit.
The second act deepens and darkens and becomes increasingly poignant. Tanya March’s suggestive Turn Back O Man leads into the hypocritical interrogation by the Pharisees and the sad and angry Alas for You (Darik Vélez). The moving By My Side (Michélle Hough) and We Beseech Thee (Doug Middlebrook) link the closing chapters – the evocative last supper – the tragic crucifixion scene – the resurrection and reunion culminate in the triumphant Beautiful City.
As it should be, the core of the content and the presentation is the captivating portrayal of Jesus by Darik Vélez. From his unpretentious entrance until his agonizing exit this actor delivers a totally integrated performance. Everything he does is so natural and believable that you are right there with the others as the gospel journey is travelled.
Greg Tinney impresses and convinces in the role of Judas – which makes it difficult to accept him assisting with taking Jesus’ body off the cross and joining the mourning disciples -perhaps an abrupt exit and unobtrusive re-entrance without his jacket?
The voice of God needs augmentation to grab the audience’s attention and inspire more definite entrances. It is with the vocal pyrotechnics of the Tower of Babble that the show takes off and never touches ground until the final line-up of players.
Although this would be a stimulating production any time of the year – it gains an extra dimension as a run up to Good Friday and the heart of the Christian calendar: Easter Sunday.