The musical Godspell was first produced in 1970, and was one shiny fruit of the collision between Hippie Culture and Christianity. This was a time when Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In the Sky”, the Doobie Brother’s “Jesus Is Just Alright” and George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” were Top 40 hits. It was just after Jesus Christ Superstar had become a big hit. To be sure, there was the Jesus that Jimmy Swaggart and Billy Grahams fulminated about, but the counterculture had their own Jesus. He was, as King Missile would later put it, way cool. Kind of a revolutionary, but more the daisy in the gun barrel kind than the bomb throwing kind. He was all about peace and love, and he had those groovy sandals!
Godspell has aged a whole lot better than Jesus Christ Superstar as a piece of living theater. The score is full of compelling, memorable songs that still sound fresh, and the wide-eyed earnestness of the book dares you to drop your post-modern, ironic, hip-shot stance, for a couple hours at least. And it plays up the existential life lessons of the Gospel of Matthew while keeping the supernatural scary stuff mostly on the down low.
City Circle Acting Company’s production, using an all-teenage cast, promises to leave audiences smiling. Some musicals are a stretch for young performers, but for them, Godspell is tailor-made. After all, Jesus said “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come to me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” The Man himself wanted us to be as innocent and open-hearted as children. Actual kids have yet to lose that, and when they perform Godspell it shines in their faces.
Performances: Friday the 23rd and Saturday the 24th at 7:30 PM, Sunday the 25th Matinée at 2PM.
Tickets in advance at The Englert Box Office online or at the Theater (221 E. Washington 319-688-2653)