a rousing start to Richter season
a born-again enthusiasm at Musicals at Richter, Danbury's outdoor summer theater,
and it's not coming just from the invigorating and uplifting score of the season
the stars at Richter has always been one of the joys of summer theatergoing in
our area, but the truth of the matter is there's been an inconsistency in the
work in recent years that left much to be desired, particularly in the musical
all been rectified in spades with a sparkling, well-sung, musically sure production
of Stephen Schwartz/John-Michael Tebelak's "Godspell," a musical based lightly
on the Gospel according to St. Matthew.
the schedule at Richter is so tight there's little chance for an extension. So
a word to the wise: get your tickets now it closes July 1.
of the success of this "Godspell" must go to Don Rickenback, who not only serves
as director but leads the small, oh-so-easy-to-listen-to orchestra. Rickenback
has taken the circus theme that has always been a part of "Godspell" and expanded
it into an all-encompassing "tent" for this musical story of Jesus and his followers.
A colorful assortment
of entertainers including a juggler, popcorn vender, magician, face painter, strong
man and a sideshow barker wander among the audience before the show begins.
Summoned to the stage by the
call of John the Baptist (David Roth), who exhorts them to "Prepare Ye the Way
of the Lord," they find themselves entranced by a youthful and contemporary Jesus
the first act, the disparate entertainers experience an emotional and religious
epiphany as they bond into a group of friends and fall under the benevolent influence
of Jesus. The story and music in the beginning is upbeat and positive, including
the well-known "Day by Day," which is led by Cynthia Preston, assisted by Betsy
Kohl and Melissa Strand Fike.
parables give way to the more affecting story of betrayal and crucifixion in the
second half, dividing the show into a two-sided coin, one light and one dark.
Throughout there is a sense of camaraderie that has always radiated across the
footlights to young audience members.
despair and isolation many young people felt as a result of the ethically incorrect
1960s and 1970s was partially exorcised by positive musicals such as "Godspell,"
"Hair," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Jesus Christ Superstar."
A musical for this
generation is long overdue, but surprisingly "Godspell" doesn't seem a wit dated
and will do just fine.
has assembled a first-rate cast, all of whom sing, dance and act with great flair.
Congdon's Jesus is passionate yet restrained, youthful yet knowing. He is the
pal every guy would like to have, the boyfriend every girl dreams of. It's a sensitive
performance that helps the emotion of the piece gel.
would be unfair to single out anyone else from this uniformly fine cast, but also
unfair not to mention their names: Rob Ferzola, Juliette Garrison, Anthony Grasso,
Elyse Jasensky, Crystal John, Betsy Kohl, Donald Leona, Brian Maher, Cynthia Preston,
Melissa Strand Fike, and David Roth, who gets two appreciative nods for playing
both John the Baptist and Judas.
of these performers could rightly be called a star having them together in one
cast is a starry delight.
at Richter was the recent recipient of a grant from the State of Connecticut,
which has been put to good use in overhauling the stage into a more compact and
sturdy playing area.
look of the show, from the Technicolor costumes to the circus banners and billboards
that decorate the stage, is bright and upbeat. Despite the dark reality of its
story, the upbeat spirit of "Godspell" stays with you long after the cast has
taken its well-deserved curtain call.
"Godspell" continues Fridays
through Sundays at 8:30 p.m. through July 1 at Musicals at Richter, 100 Aunt Hack
Road, Danbury. Performances are Fridays through Sundays at 8:30 p.m. The grounds
open at 7:15 for picnicking. Chairs can be rented by reservation. Tickets are
$15, seniors $12, children $10. Call the box office at (203) 748-6873.