Lamb’s ‘Godspell’ gets a ‘fresher, contemporary spin’

By Jessica Fryman

When Lance Arthur Smith first saw Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak’s “Godspell” in high school, it didn’t leave an impression on him and he didn’t get most of the dated jokes.

Now, Smith is a bald, break-dancing Jesus in the Lamb’s Players Theatre’s production of the 1970s musical about the Gospel of Matthew.

Lamb’s artistic director and the show’s director, Robert Smyth, says this production will be anything but dated, pointing out its “fresher, contemporary spin and local references.”

“Godspell,” which Lamb’s has presented four times before, is a flexible piece that many theater companies produce, Smyth said. Because of the show’s popularity, this production has an open-ended run. When Lamb’s last produced the musical in 2002, the show scheduled to follow it was canceled and “Godspell’s” run was extended.

After getting requests to present the musical for a fifth time, Smyth decided to give it a go while trying to attract a bigger audience to Lamb’s’ downtown venue, the Horton Grand Theatre.

The seven members of the cast had only two weeks to rehearse because they were busy with other productions and summer camps. But they were up to the challenge, constantly throwing out suggestions, modern-day references and jokes in rehearsals.

“The beauty of ‘Godspell’ is it’s molded around the cast,” said Season Duffy, a Lamb’s staff member who also acted in the play in 2002. “The cast puts in our own spin.”

Aside from the backspinning Jesus, audience members can look forward to technological and political references, a Jessica Simpson impression and plenty of puns.

The show’s music is also up-to-date with an edgy, rock feel to many of the songs, which include the hit “Day by Day” and “Bless the Lord.”

“These are phenomenal singers,” Smyth said. “The music is very dynamic.”

At the core of the musical are different stories from the Gospel of Matthew, offering life-lessons on how to treat others.

“It’s not necessarily ‘beat you over the head with Bible verses,’” Duffy said. “Even if you’re not an incredibly religious person, these things make sense.”

This story was originally published in The San Diego Union-Tribune
on July 10, 2009.
Original story on The San Diego Union-Tribune website.