The ‘word’ will soon be spread from the Doncaster Playhouse!
Phoenix Theatre Company are presenting the 2001 revival version of Godspell which is full of high tech multimedia; quite different in presentation to the original 1971 Godspell, originally conceived and directed by John Michael Tebelak with music by Stephen Schwartz. It does however retain all the wonderful tunes including the well known ‘Day By Day’ and the catchy ‘All for the Best.’
Godspell is primarily based on the story of the Gospel according to St Matthew but is told in such a way in this version through song and dance that you don’t need to be religious to appreciate the message to love one another and accept people for who they are.
Ironically, Godspell was Director Richard Perdriau’s first show back in 1989 for Camberwell Youth Theatre.
“After a string of other amateur shows, I went over to the UK to seek whatever professional work I could get. I was lucky enough to work fairly consistently for the next five years, with gigs including fringe theatre in London, cruise ship shows around North America, and “Theatre in Education” throughout South West England. Eventually I moved back home, changed careers and dropped out of theatre for about 15 years. Last year I returned to do Miss Saigon and High Society with CLOC. Now I feel like I have come full circle, getting the opportunity to direct the show I started out in.”
In 2001, new arrangements of all the Godspell songs were written for a USA touring production. The songs, while true to the original melodies, were changed to a more contemporary, modern feel. Richard grew up listening to the original cast album from ’71, which he still loves, but the new arrangements have given him a whole new appreciation for this wonderful show.
Godspell remains one of those few musicals that can be set anywhere, any time, so you can really put your own stamp on it. Richard is setting it in the here and now so he can bring our growing digital culture into the mix. Godspell is essentially about the building of a community. How do Gen Y and Z form communities today? Face book, Skype, You Tube, Twitter, texting? “I wanted to stage the show in a way that was current and familiar to the young actors who were in it, so that they connected to the book and therefore the audience.”
He won’t be using the cyclone fence concept from the original. Instead, his set is very minimalist and modern, almost like a piece of contemporary art. The cast build scenes out of 10 cubes – 5 white and 5 black – arranged in various ways around the stage. He is also incorporating a lot of multimedia projected onto the set to add to the current look and feel.
“We use the multimedia differently in every song. In some it’s integral to the story, in others it’s there to support and enhance the choreography, and in others it gives us the chance to communicate something extra to the audience in quite a unique way. What it’s not is an afterthought or just set dressing. I’ve worked in the multimedia industry for the last 10 years, so it was a key part of the concept I had for the show when I first applied for the role of Director. Each multimedia piece has been designed and produced with very careful thought as to what it will add to the song’s key message. I was also conscious when designing it that it would enhance, but never upstage the cast.”
With a young vibrant cast of 16 actors, aged between 14 and 28, headed by Leighton Irwin in the role of Jesus, Godspell is set to wow audiences!
“They have been absolutely terrific, and have really bought-in to all the extra stuff we’re doing with the multimedia. It’s involved a really heavy commitment because the whole cast are on stage for pretty much the entire show so have had to attend every rehearsal, and also the multimedia has required extra calls for filming and photo sessions. I really appreciate the dedication all of them have had to the project. I don’t think they quite knew what they were letting themselves in for when they auditioned but I think they’ve had a lot of fun along the way.”
Although Richard has used a lot of tools from the digital world we live in today to help communicate the story, he has still stayed true to the script and to Godspell’s key message of love, humanity and community. One thing I can guarantee is that it is unlike any version of Godspell the audience will have seen before.
Godspell runs at the Doncaster Playhouse from Friday 28th through to the 5th June. Bookings 90125897 or book online at www.phoenixtheatrecompany.org