Godspell – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Since it was composed in 1971, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by John-Michael Tebelak, the famed musical “Godspell,” the story of the parables from the Gospel of St. Matthew, is experiencing a total makeover. Inspired by a vision by ACT of Connecticut, a Contemporary Theater in Ridgefield, and by its founder and artistic director Daniel C. Levine, a unique interpretation will be showcased until Sunday, March 8.

When Levine witnessed scenes of the tragic fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in April of last year, he conceived moving the musical to an abandoned church in Manhattan, inhabited by children squatters, that is destined to be destroyed in twenty four hours to allow condominiums on the site. In conferring with Schwartz, Levine got his blessing to revise the piece and ACT will premiere this new adaptation now.

If your parables need polishing and your morals need motivation and your acts as a good samaritan need stimulation, then ACT has just the musical to get you moving.

This lively troupe performs a series of skits, sketches and songs that are wrapped in a cloak of the gospel of St. Matthew, all the while dancing and cavorting with joy. Like a rock concert and Sunday revival meeting combined, these performers take the audience along as they provide lessons on how to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and how to guarantee you get to the Pearly Gates. A dynamic Jesus, captured by Trent Saunders, leads his faithful followers on a mission of peace and philosophy, sharing his images of a place of promise.

Glorious songs like “Day By Day,” “Save the People,” “By My Side.” “All for the Best” and “We Beseech Thee” set the tone for salvation and redemption. Using games like Pictionary, charades and jump rope and devices like Vaudeville and ventriloquism, this talented cast is rousing and enthusiastic in its delivery. It is a Sunday school class like you’ve never seen before.

Spreading the word of God are Jaime Cepero as Judas and John the Baptist, Shaylen Harger, Jacob Hoffman, Katie Ladner, Alex Lugo, Cameron Nies, Andrew Poston, Monica Ramirez, Phil Sloves, Morgan Billings Smith,and Emma Tattenbaum-Fine as well as a bevy of children. Under the able leadership of director Daniel C Levine, the troupe forms a community that performs “like a freight train” to light up the world and prepare the way for the Lord. The glorious words of “Day By Day” that pray for one to see and love and follow God was one of the high points of the show. Kudos to Sara Brians as choreographer, Jack Mehler as lighting design and John Saluz for sound design.

For tickets ($57-72), call the box office at 475-215-5433, 36 Old Quarry Road, Ridgefield or online at www.actofct.org. Performances are Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

The spirit will definitely move, lift and inspire you as you rejoice in the words and the deeds that are sprinkled like seeds in a fertile field, for you to gather and enjoy.