Godspell

Laurel and I saw Godspell last night at Circle in the Square, and I have to say, though there’s a bit of irony in seeing Silas Botwin (Hunter Parrish) from Weeds performing as Jesus, the show was unexpectedly one of the best performances I’ve seen in awhile.  (I had seen Hunter as Melchior in Spring Awakening back in 2009, but that was before I was addicted to Showtime’s Weeds.)

I had low expectations for the show: I’d prepared myself for a reincarnation of the hippy version from the 70s, with lots of tambourines, flutes, and people that sound like Lamar Alford (think opera combined with Kermit the Frog). Instead, the music and parables were completely modernized – awesome rock versions of the songs, stories filled with funny, current references and some even told through rap (including a mini-version of Kanye’s Golddigger), a great use of props on the minimalist set, and most importantly, the cast all had tremendous energy and terrific voices. My only complaint, and it’s not Godspell-specific, is that the audience is allowed to bring drinks, candy, and food into the theater. Nothing worse than hearing crinkling of wrappers while Jesus is dying (hope I didn’t just ruin the story for anyone).

I highly recommend checking this show out.

In this playing of Day by Day, I’ve tried to pull in the melody, along with the accompaniment. One of the problems, as I’ve noted in past posts, with the rock genre when transcribed to sheet music for piano, is that it loses a ton of context – it’s hard to represent percussion and certain types of syncopation in sheet music, and guitar parts on the piano just sound empty. I try to make up for this lack of context by playing a lot more notes, filling in beats, adding a bit more rhythm. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – in any case, that’s what I’m doing in the B part of this performance.

Some months ago I read Stephen Schwartz’s biography, Defying Gravity by Carol De Giere. It’s really interesting to see how some of these shows are conceived and brought to life. Godspell was written by John-Michael Tebelak as his master’s thesis at Carnegie Mellon, and Schwartz later wrote music, new lyrics, and added structure to the “spontaneity,” in De Giere’s terms. It cost $50K to fund Godspell’s off-Broadway debut. Anyway, De Giere’s book is pretty interesting, if you like this sort of stuff.

Another of Schwartz’s shows I really enjoyed was Wicked. Figured I might as well put a wicked Wicked (see what I did there?) song up here as well – this is As Long As You’re Mine, played “with quiet passion” as indicated by the book.