Click here: Great seats still available for closing night Saturday, $15-$45.
MANCHESTER, NH – While it’s hard to believe the musical Godspell is celebrating more than 45 years in circulation both on and off Broadway, there’s nothing about this joyful production, based on a series of parables from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, that feels dated.
Especially in the hands of Palace artistic director Carl Rajotte, who has given the characters and setting a modern, steampunk flair and plenty of leeway to bring the noise and the hijinks.
“Our version – and the versions of Godspell that have been out since the original – have always worked in pop culture references to make it more accessible,” explains Megan Quinn, one of the ensemble cast members.
“So when the rich man is in torment in hell, for instance, he says ‘Go to my five brothers,’ and then he names the Kardashian sisters.”
Also look for an Austin Powers impression, a “sweet rap” with a Fresh Prince of Bel Air vibe, and a McRib sandwich reference, among other asides, says Quinn.
At the same time, Rajotte has been mindful to retain the elevated spirit of the original, knowing the audience will likely be a split between those who can sing along with every song, and those who will want to download the soundtrack as soon as they get home.
Jared Troilo, as Jesus, fully expects there to be dancing in the aisles, as well.
After several years in the local theater circuit, Troilo knows his way around the stage – particularly the Palace stage, having just completed a run as Tony in “West Side Story.” He also played the lead in the Palace production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and was Danny Zuko in “Grease!”
Troilo says he was familiar with the show before being cast as Jesus, he’s enjoyed learning the score for the first time, and has singled out his favorites.
“One is ‘All for the Best,’ where Jesus sings with his counterpart Judas – a relationship which unfortunately goes sour later – but it’s an amazing vaudeville number with hats and canes,” said Troilo.
The other is “All Good Gifts” sung by fellow cast member Kyle Szen.
“It was glorious, the first time we did it at rehearsal. It was emotional for all of us. You realize what the words are really saying and what the song really means, it’s really beautiful,” Troilo said.
Quinn said although the show is considered a popular seasonal offering during Lent and Easter, much like “Jesus Christ Superstar,” there is something timeless and universal about the music and the message.
“You can take it as a story with lessons to be learned, but we’re also basing the show in this woodsy, steampunk world, so there’s a nice fresh take on it musically and artistically. Those who’ve seen it before will be surprised to see some of the tweaks we’ve made to the music and some of the scenes,” Quinn says.
The intimate cast of 10 characters allows the audience to connect with each one of them, and the music and dancing are infectious, Quinn says.
Troilo agrees, saying the cast, which comes from a range of religious and spiritual backgrounds, has been unified by the message and spirit of the production.
“People will listen to the parables and realize that you don’t necessarily have to take them in a religious way; ultimately they are about doing the right things, and accepting each other for who we are, and living life to its fullest,” Troilo says. “The lessons are universal as human beings, just to live a better life, something I think we all need to do.”
While there is high energy, fun, games and slapstick moments, Godspell delivers a powerful ending, with the condemnation and crucifixion of Christ, followed by an equally powerful and uplifting finale.
“If rehearsal is any indication of how the audience will like the show, it’s going to be ridiculous, because it has been ridiculous. Hopefully, they will like it as much as we are enjoying ourselves,” Quinn says.
Quinn, who has performed the show several times since college, says her favorite part about this production is getting to sing “Day by Day,” for the first time, a universally upbeat tune with very few lyrics, which made it to No. 13 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart in 1972.
“My mom would say she’s really happy about that because ‘Day by Day’ is longer than the song I usually get to sing,” says Quinn. who moved to Manchester about three years ago to take a job as Company Manager for the Palace Professional Productions.
Troilo says he likes that Godspell is being staged in between West Side Story, which just wrapped, and Les Miserables, which opens in May.
“This show is so upbeat, it’s a great counterweight to those other shows, that are great shows but that delve into heavier themes. You leave Godspell with the feeling that life is beautiful and glorious,” Troilo says.
“Our director thought he was going to go in a sort of post-apocalyptic direction with staging, but then it was like, you know what? It’s been snowing for months. People need something bright, to pull them out of the winter funk,” Quinn says. “This is it! Everybody needs to come see this play.”
Closing night for Godspell is April 11, 2015. Get your tickets at palacetheatre.org or by calling the box office at 603-668-5588.
Meet the rest of the Godspell Cast
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