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"Beauty and the Beast," March 19-29, Sumter Little Theatre, 775-2150.
"The Odd Couple: Female Version," March 20-29, Village Square Theatre, 359-1436.
"Godspell," March 20 - April 11, Trustus Theatre, 254-9732.
"Stickfly," March 27 - April 4, Workshop Theatre at 701 Whaley, 799-6551.
"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," March 27-29, Town Theatre, 799-2510.
Press Releases for Current Shows
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Chapin Theatre Company
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Ritz Theatre of Newberry
SC Shakespeare Company
Stage 5 Theatre
Sumter Little Theatre
Village Square Theatre
Trustus Does a Great Job With “Godspell,” But It’s Still “Godspell”
Review by August Krickel
Trustus Theatre is doing a famously controversial play that tackles themes of intolerance and faith. Which would be pretty much business as usual for them, except that most of the controversy surrounding Godspell died down in the 70's; in recent decades it's been widely hailed as an uplifting retelling of the life and message of Jesus, and has been performed at countless churches and high schools worldwide. And while a musical at Trustus with an overtly religious message is not exactly grounds for mass hysteria or dogs and cats living together, the choice may raise eyebrows in various circles, so let me try to assuage a few potential concerns. No, no one gets naked, and no they don't try to change the basic story. Godspell has always included a significant amount of improvisation that draws from traditions of vaudeville and commedia dell'arte, as the cast acts out and reacts to familiar stories from the Bible, often with comic, anachronistic modern references. Dewey Scott-Wiley directs the revised script from a 2011 Broadway reboot that updates many of these references, with allusions to cell phones and Facebook, Donald Trump and the Kardashians. But the songs are all the same, although some have been re-arranged and/or re-orchestrated for a more modern sound with a harder rocking edge. The good news is that the ebullient young cast and band do a terrific job, sustaining a consistently high level of energy and commitment for two-and-a-quarters hours of toe-tapping fun, with the professionalism that one has come to expect from Trustus. But it's still Godspell. It's the stories and parables many of us learned as children: the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, "cast the first stone," and "turn the other cheek." And the production never shies away from its core identity as a play in which the performers are presenting Christian lessons and values, as....well, as gospel.
many of my generation who attended church and Sunday school regularly while
growing up, that's not a problem. A hip, young bearded English teacher took a
school group of 8th, 9th and 10th graders, including me, to see the first
of that cast, they're all millennials, except for Scott Vaughan, an ageless
Gen-X-er who, as Jesus (although only referred to as "Master" in the
script) blends in seamlessly with his youthful cohorts. I've appreciated
East cast member gets to sing lead on at least one song, and there are no weak voices. While you've seen most of them in other shows, you don't normally see these specific performers in shows all together, although four were in last spring's Young Frankenstein at Workshop. There are pleasant surprises: it turns out Kayla Cahill, whom I've enjoyed in a number of acting roles, is a gifted singer and dancer as well. While the cast generally wears festive and playful modern attire representing assorted personas (the geek, the hipster, etc.) her costume recalls a sort of hippie-chick vibe, and she becomes the first, and seemingly most innocent and sincere, person to commit her life to Jesus, long before he has impressed the rest of the cast with his wisdom and compassion; her rendition of the hit single "Day By Day" is just precious. It also turns out that Mark Ziegler can sing soul like few white boys can, and that Michael Hazin can do imitations of just about every celebrity who ever existed, including a spot-on Bill Clinton, and even his Ash character from last summer's Evil Dead the Musical. Shannon Earle's luxurious voice on "By My Side" was for me the most outstanding and appealing.
works that incorporate the historical aspect of the life of Jesus, Godspell
doesn't try to explain why Judas betrays his master, except that this it to
fulfill how the prophets foretold it would go down. I'm not sure if it was
Mario McClean's nuanced body language and expressions, or blocking and
direction by Scott-Wiley, or just my imagination, but here I always got the
impression that McClean as Judas never quite bought into the entire
devotion-to-the-Lord thing. The odd-man-out effect was quite subtle, but
effectively set up the climactic betrayal. McClean is always a strong
performer, and he channeled a bit of the singer Seal in his performance of
"On the Willows." There seem to be a lot of little touches by
Scott-Wiley, in fact, that try to make the material (which, however updated, is
still 2000 years old) as accessible as possible.
Ultimately, however, it's still Godspell. Revamped, and reimagined for a new generation, but with 100% of the lessons from Jesus and the entire Stephen Schwartz score intact. If you're turned off by religion, or conversely if you're offended by performers taking artistic license with the way in which religion is presented, or for that matter if you’re not wild about 40-year-old show tunes, then this is one to skip. If on the other hand you like the material or are intrigued by this description - whether or not you're particularly religious - then you won't find a better realization of one of the most popular and influential of modern musicals. And if you're hesitant, I want to stress again that no one is going to try to convert you or ask you to sing "Kumbaya." Godspell runs through Saturday, April 11th, but dates and times are a little different than usual, with extra matinee and weekday evening performances, but no shows on Easter weekend. So more importantly than usual, be sure to visit www.trustus.org or call (803) 254-9732 for ticket information and availability.
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