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Review: 'Godspell' at Knightsbridge Theatre*

June 25, 2009 |  6:15 pm

Godspell The longevity of "Godspell" owes as much to its ecumenical take on the Gospel of St. Matthew as to its rampant tunefulness. Both aspects adorn the Knightsbridge Theatre staging of Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak's indestructible 1971 rock musical. 
Director Chuck McCollum takes songwriter Schwartz's view of "Godspell" as the formation of a community to heart. This doesn't explain the prologue in prison uniforms on designer John Paul De Leonardis' holding pen, but that becomes irrelevant at the advent of John the Baptist (René Guerrero). He delivers "Prepare Ye," the set opens up and the full-voiced cast joyously exits. 
They return as Melrose Avenue denizens, wearing costumer Christina Wright's thrift-store chic once unaffected Jesus (Sterling Sulieman) arrives in his boxers. Thereafter, Tebelak's improv-slanted parables and Schwartz's evergreen songs take flight. Musical director Jan Roper winningly re-orchestrates the score, and choreographer Allison Bibicoff exhibits considerable wit. 
Sulieman, aptly sunny, contrasts well with Guerrero, whose shift to Judas occurs imperceptibly. Jenny Weaver offers a galvanic "Day by Day," Cloie Wyatt Taylor a righteous "Bless the Lord," and Maria Lee incinerates the aisles with "Turn Back, O Man." Talo Silveyra soars through "All Good Gifts," while Zach Bandler turns "We Beseech Thee" into a revivalist rave-up. Kelly Boczek, Tracy Thomas and the incorrigible Jason B. Hightower complete an engaging roster. 
Their precocity and McCollum's stage maneuvers can feel over-studied, with the ending just missing full catharsis. Yet there's no missing the rapt joie de vivre, which ensures that we learn "Godspell's" lessons well.

-- David C. Nichols
"Godspell," Knightsbridge Theatre, 1944 Riverside Drive, L.A. 8 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. No show July 4. Ends July 12. $20. (323) 667-0955. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

*An earlier version of this review misspelled Zach Bandler's name as Bindler.

Photo: Maria Lee. Credit: Marshall Bissett.