Port Perry’s Theatre 3X60 and Cadenza Productions
By David Rabjohn
“Ensemble” is perhaps not a strong enough term to describe the tightly coordinated efforts of fourteen talented, dynamic and hard-workingactors staging Stephen Schwartz’slong-favourite Godspell July 6 – 9 at the Town Hall in Port Perry. This entire cast is onstage together for every moment of the over two hour production of song, dance and eye-popping stagecraft. Based mainly on the parables from St. Matthew and some from St. Luke of the New Testament, the story deals with the overwhelming personal tumult of ordinary people in the throes of early Christianity.
Vigorously directed and choreographed by Carey Nicholson, this vehicle makes extreme demands on the cast. The audience is treated to a diverse range of musical and dance styles including (this sounds like one of those lengthy lists in the bible) hip hop, gospel, ballads, vamp, soft shoe, vaudeville, rap, rumba, and good old fashioned Broadway tunes. I’m sure I’ve missed some. The cast, in a word, pulled it off.
Ms. Nicholson’s treatment of the choreography demanded sensitive creativity, not just because of the diverse elements, but also because of the frenetic, almost improvisationalvision of Schwartz’s book. There had to be a very fine line between letting the cast whip up their own special energies and tethering that exuberance. A very special feat. Highlights for me were the marionette work and the machine moment.
I stress “ensemble” for obvious reasons, but clearly the star of the show is the highly talented and versatile young actor Liam Lynch as Jesus. He was strong, comfortable and, for us, entertaining in all aspects of his work. What stood out, though, was his relationship with the rest of the cast. His talent is undeniable, but he managed to not overwhelm the cast – his strength came from subtlety as he somehow blended with his fellow actors. The audience could almost feel as if he trusted his fellow actors and they returned that trust – remarkable maturity in such a young actor.
Back to the ensemble – impossible to list the myriad of special moments, but I would like to highlight a few. Kelly Southwell as the early Pharisee was a brilliant moment, however her dynamic work throughout the entire play was a symbol of that hardworking cast. Catherine Sutherland-Marzola as the Brooklyn accented Abraham was another great turn. Jeremy Cook, with his solo in “All Good Gifts” was a standout. The haunting “By My Side” was beautifully led by Mikayla Gilliland and we will never forget the hilarious Clint Eastwood good Samaritan by Tom Lynch! Part of Carey Nicholson’s directing strength was to pull the most out of every cast member and to provide moments for every member to shine.
Musical leadership was strongly provided by Carol Salamone, a founding member of Cadenza. Happily, we were treated to a live band fully visible above the main stage. However, it never overpowered the cast and once they were onstage the blend was complete.
The rough back alley motif of the set included garbage, derelict equipment and poignant No Parking signs that offered an unwelcoming mood where you knew that a very special event would have to take place for people to want to stop there.
Odds and ends: Many productions leave out the difficult “Tower of Babel” opening song. Great effort to leave it in. Clown make up was often used to demonstrate the new cohesion of the community – the use of colourful shoes and bright shirts was a creative change. We could not help but laugh at a number of bad jokes which helped to demonstrate the humanity at the base of the events.
Theatre 3X60’s dream is to “realize the value of connections.” This production of Godspell was tailor made for that purpose.
And yes, joyfully, many pots and garbage cans were harmed in the making of this production. Amen.
Performance dates and times: July 6 – 9 at 8 pm inclusive and July 9 at 2:00 pm.