‘Godspell’ opens to huge crowds at Ansonia

Imari Scarbrough

May 7, 2014

“Godspell” opened at the Ansonia on Friday, drawing 535 people over the weekend — more than the 342 who watched the first weekend of “Crimes of the Heart” and the 496 attendees for the first weekend of “The Trip to Bountiful.” Several theater-goers came from out-of-county, including Norwood, Cheraw, Charlotte, and even Georgia and West Virginia.

The musical opens with “Prepare Ye (The Way of the Lord)” as John the Baptist gathers the community and baptizes them. Jesus appears and asks John to baptize him, stunning the apostle, who instead asks Jesus to baptize him. Jesus insists and explains that he has come to “Save the People.”

Throughout the play, Jesus tells parables to the cast, who act them out, and even tell a few stories themselves. Gradually, the followers become more knowledgeable and transform from a rag-tag group to one that understands that it’s all about love, and how the “Light of the World” of Christ should shine through all.

The company sings as it learns, and Jesus often sings as he teaches parables primarily drawn from the Gospel of Matthew and a few from the Gospel of Luke. Several soloists display their talents; Gina Clarke, who has worked with director Tommy Wooten on plays at the Ansonia before, was especially strong on “Bless the Lord.” With Steve Lear as Judas, Wooten sings the upbeat “All for the Best;” he later sings the calmer “Beautiful City” and haunting “Finale,” skillfully performing the range of styles and emotion in all three, as well as several other numbers. Jennifer Bowers also skillfully doubles as both a soloist and a drummer.

Several other actors display their singing skills: Lear, Amy Stewart, McKayla High, Darius Cox, Kianna Ellerbe, McKenzie Staton, Jodi Davis, Matthew Bailey, and Jennifer Gilmore all impress with both solos and in the chorus. Live music provided by drummer Jennifer Bowers, guitarist Michael Welch, and bassist Austin Welch complete the experience.

“Godspell” is a very different type of production than the non-musical and somewhat more serious “Bountiful” and “Crimes,” combining bright colors and relentless energy into a dynamic performance. Even though the jokes and the company’s silliness made the crowd laugh, touching moments also left some audience members sniffling and wiping away tears.

The musical is based on the book by John-Michael Tebelak. The music and lyrics are by renowned composer Steven Schwartz, who also wrote the music and lyrics for “Wicked,” “Prince of Egypt” some Disney songs, and many other works. This production is directed by Tommy Wooten, who has worked as a professional actor/director in over 150 productions and directed previous shows shown at the Ansonia, including “Crimes of the Heart” and “The Trip to Bountiful.”

“Godspell” will end this weekend. There will be performances on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $12 and may be purchased at Lacy’s, at the Ansonia Theater, or through PayPal on the theatre’s website at Call the theatre at 704-694-4950 for more information.