Jewell Theatre Company’s “Godspell” is a religious experience

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William Jewell theater students put on a performance of Godspell Tuesday April 12, 2016.

Thursday,  April 14 was opening night of Jewell Theatre Company’s “Godspell.” The version of “Godspell” Jewell Theatre used was based on the revival version that played on Broadway in 2012.

In short, it was one of the best shows I’ve seen from the company, if not the best. The cast was talented and cohesive, and there was a palpable sense of shared weight between them. Although there were a few shining stars, what made the show so much fun was the way every cast member was using every bit of stage possible.

Much of the credit goes to Dr. Chris McCoy, assistant theatre professor and director of the show. This is McCoy’s second show at William Jewell College, following “Metamorphoses,” which ran last semester.

Having worked with McCoy personally, I know he is very focused on choreography, so expect lots of dancing and movement. With a cast as talented as this one, the audience is really pulled into their performances—quite literally at some points in the show.

The singing and instrumentals were well-practiced, and although the show has a tendency to throw the audience into big and elaborate dance numbers, the diction of the singers and the musicality of the numbers was not lost.

Two actors stand out to me in particular. Blair Wooten, senior biology major, played the lead role of Jesus. As Jesus, Wooten was tasked with corralling the 13 members of the ensemble and giving us a few knockout solos himself. Wooten’s onstage chemistry with Jackson Pennington, sophomore music theory and composition major, who played Judas, added a solid foundation to the ensemble’s rich acting.

The other cast member is Morgan Allen, junior Oxbridge music and religion and culture major. Allen and her tambourine led one of the big musical numbers of the show, “Learn Your Lessons Well,” on a raised platform downstage. Her vocals were really something special.

I do admit I was questioning the cyber theme that appeared to be prominent in the set and during the show. The set is minimalistic—which I liked. Lots of open room to dance, move around the stage and perform. But what set pieces there were, such as the old TV sets framing stage left and right, were a bit puzzling as to their relevance. So, my one critique is that I don’t think the cyber, Matrix-esque concept was fully fleshed out in a way that legitimized its necessity.

All in all, a very strong show from the Jewell Theatre Company. “Godspell” is running three more times: April 15, April 16 and April 23. If you get the chance, you need to see it.

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