Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Earth Shall Be Fair and All Her People One



Jesus, Get Down off that Cross, We Need the Wood!

For holiday and personal reasons, we went to see Godspell.

Look, I did this thing in college. I went to that other school, right up the street in Medford, but there was this cross-theater exchange with Harvard and I did Godspell there…it was the 80’s. And definitely past its prime then…but when you’re a certain age, you just have to sing certain songs.

It was also the second Broadway show I had seen as a kid in nineteen-seventy-cough, cough. With Bobby Lee and others, who are, well, no longer alive. Going up on stage during intermission for wine? It all just seemed so daring to a math, science and music kid from the suburbs.

Godspell is loose. The script is a bunch of new testament parables. During rehearsals you usually play around and try to find fun new ways to do them. Game playing type stuff. Role playing, for sure. You mess around with funny props and newspapers.
Songs often get assigned randomly.

I was “All Good Gifts” and “On the Willows.”

So tonight, we go to Godspell, me, my husband Adam, and my old friend from college, Stacie, who did Godspell so much with her friends that they had Godspell-in-a-bag, ready at any moment, since they often did it at fifteen minute intervals all over Staten Island. Her song was “By My Side” and “Day By Day” when the usual Day-by-Day girl was sick.

Nostalgia. You with me?

So, there we were tonight. And I don’t know---part of it was the show, part of it was all that youth that is over for me, but I had a great time. Overcome, occasionally, with memories and some strong mid-life-man-in-row-B crying. But I was quiet about it and did my best to not disturb anyone.

So the good news is, the show is really enjoyable and if you have the chance to see it, you should see it. I mean, these kids are all so young and lovely and fun and energetic…but it’s focused, too. They have a ton of bits, all sorts of carnival acts, voices, characters, voices doing voices, mini-cirque-du-soleil action, lights, instruments, audience participation, all of it. You don’t get bored because it is so inventive.

The other great news is, they have changed the arrangements of many of the songs and not only is the instrumentation something you would recognize from the last ten years, but the harmonies are more intricate, smarter and densely suspended creating tension as it goes.

Everyone gets their song…but you don’t feel like you are watching a diva festival (okay, there is one guy…but he can’t help himself.)---you feel more like you are watching an ensemble that worked very hard and very well together under the direction of Daniel Goldstein, who must have made it a whole big fun experience, like rehearsals used to be, back in the day.

I love the music. I love the songs. I have my original Broadway piano book of Godspell from the 1970’s and I’ve played those songs thousands of times. They are pleasing. They have hooks. They make me happy. I was glad to be there. I may go back. Hearing songs that you like, live, by good singers is such a treat. On the other hand, I usually don’t go to plays more than once. (It's playing just two blocks away.)

And now the bad news: The play is not really a play. Oh well.
Hunter Parrish is gorgeous but he seems to be a little horse. Oh well.
The cloying Christianity is sort of over the top and empty all at once. Oh well.

Now let’s talk about Hunter Parrish. Why is he so pretty? Or what I mean to ask is, what must it be like to be that pretty? Circle-in-the-Square is, you know, a circle in a square theater…so the performers are up close and near you. Hunter was right next to me, often, and he has that easy smile, with those ridiculously perfect white teeth and that face, when you look at his face, especially the eyes, you come to understand all those articles you’ve read about perfect symmetry, features equidistant from a vertical meridian that goes exactly through the center of the nose and lips, that makes for an appealing mate. (Also, studies have shown that facial symmetry is directly proportional to good health. Is it because everyone gives you so much attention or is it a DNA linked thing? Go study it. Give me quarterly reports.) You look at Hunter and you sort of can’t believe his beauty and you have no question at all in your head: you know everyone wants to have sex with him. Even straight guys want to give him their man love.

But they won’t all get to. He is Jesus after all.

The cast of every race was a spectacular mix of types and funsters. But Jesus was this white blog-paragraph-long perfect specimen and what was Judas? Well, he was a colored man, a Negro. I use these terms jazzily and ironically to denote: sure, you have your clowns of every race and stripe running around singing, being apostles and all that---but in the end, Jesus is super pretty and the bad guy, though handsome enough, is black, black, black. Maybe the audience expects it and so that’s what they get.

We all know how the play ends…with Jesus getting crucified. It happens. And then I guess the musical stops and the religion begins.

But as Hitchens said, and I loosely quote “So what if the man Jesus of Nazareth truly did rise from the dead? What does that really mean?”
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