Theater Review: Rousing, Reimagined ‘Godspell’ Continues ACT’s 2019-20 Season
RIDGEFIELD — A reimagined version of Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell is the opening production of ACT’s second season. If this performance is any indication of what else is in store for the remainder of the season, it is bound to be a very successful run.
Conceived and directed by Daniel C. Levine, this Godspell opens in an abandoned and neglected church inhabited by Dickensian-like children who are under the care of a sitter of sorts played by Shaylen Harger. She herds the young ones into hiding as a cadre of greedy real estate developers invade the building with grandiose plans to convert it to luxury condos.
Jesus (played by Trent Saunders) is also hiding in the space. As he reveals himself to these materialistic interlopers, they become drawn to his message, instantly converting into true believers. The outcome of the real estate deal remains unknown, but in all the glorious music and movement, it seems superfluous.
The cast of this joyous piece is remarkable in every regard, individually and as an ensemble. The children are incorporated into several numbers and their mere presence evokes a heavenly enchantment.
They include Nikki Adorante, Marley Bender, Nate Cohen, Sully Dunn, Adelaide Kellen, Colby Kipnes, Jack Rand, Amelie Simard, Caroline Smith, and Dean Murray Trevisani.
Miss Kipnes, age 10, added a gorgeous sound to the opening number “Prepare Ye,” as did the haunting voice of Ms Harger.
This musical is totally dependent on a youthful, high-energy cast, and ACT has assembled one that is exactly that. Playing the role of Jesus, Mr Saunders offers up a soulful delivery of both the book and score. His benevolent and moral portrayal characterizes the essence of this production. It is all inclusive and Mr Saunders’ warmth fuels this connectivity.
Jaime Cepero renders a Judas of a more misguided nature. He seems to have fumbled into the act of betrayal. Mr Cepero is an agile, skilled performer who is captivating.
Every one of these performers is a standout. Their voices are simply magnificent, as are the personas they project. Distinct personalities are apparent and well played. The score is familiar and powerful in the hands of this amazing cast.
The joyful spiritual number “Bless the Lord” was given superb treatment by the utterly charming Morgan Billings Smith, as was the bluesy tone of “Learn Your Lesson Well,” performed by the stunning Alex Lugo.
Coy and flirty, Emma Tattenbaum-Fine’s performance of “Turn Back, O Man” is funny, poignant, and adorable. Phil Sloves is a musical comedy master, as is Katie Ladner. Their talent is fully on display.
In a swing role in which he fully immerses himself, Cameron Neis is terrific.
Andrew Poston offers an inspirational rendition of “All Good Gifts.” The show-stopping power of Monica Ramirez’s voice is released as she sings the classic “By My Side.”
The incredible talent carries this show from the very beginning to its deeply moving conclusion.
Scenic Designer Reid Thompson created a spectacular set which adds both an eerie and spiritual effect.
Directorial choices made by Daniel C. Levine amplified the both the humor and the depth of this play. He did an excellent job of highlighting his brilliant cast.
This is a production for all ages. It was a night that brought the audience to its feet, dancing and applauding their way to a rousing finale. Don’t miss it.
Performances continue through March 8, with curtain Thursday through Sunday evenings, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. For ticket details, reservations, and directions to the theater, visit actofct.org or call 475-215-5433.