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THEATER | Theater Review

Spirit Is Alive and Well in Revamped 'Godspell'

November 23, 2000|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you're hankering for a holiday pick-me-up, "Godspell" at Actors Co-op's Crossley Terrace Theatre may be your ticket.

Inspired by the Book of Matthew and conceived in the early '70s by John-Michael Tebelak, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, "Godspell" featured frolicking flower children and a hippie Jesus, whose preachings of peace and love seemed particularly pertinent.

Of course, those themes still resonate, as they have throughout the centuries. But unless handled just so, the musical itself, with all its hippy-dippy sentimentality and starry-eyed stereotypes, could appear laughably anachronistic.

That's where director Gary Lee Reed and his crack cast come in. Aided by musical director and arranger Dana Bisignano, who also contributes original music, Reed and company have ingeniously updated the proceedings, superimposing rap rhythms, hip-hop cadences and contemporary references.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday November 28, 2000 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 2 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
Photo caption--The actors' positions were misidentified in the caption of a photograph accompanying a review of the Actors Co-op production of "Godspell," at the Crossley Terrace Theatre, in last week's Calendar Weekend. John Allsopp, who plays Jesus, is at the bottom of the photo; Robert Standley, who plays John the Baptist, is at the top.

Cate Caplin's imaginative choreography and a live band keep the action humming like a Gershwin fan after a Michael Feinstein concert. A. Laura Brody contributes colorful costumes, while Reed's low-tech set and Jeannie Burns Hardie's lighting re-create the back alleys and loading docks of industrial Hollywood.

Sometimes, Reed and the cast lapse into gimmickry. More often, though, they are inventive and engaging. The supercharged performers of this Christian theater company, led by a star-quality John Allsopp as Jesus, are so energetic, they may sweep even seasoned cynics along in their formidable--and ultimately touching--enthusiasm.

* "Godspell," Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Hollywood. This weekend: Saturday and Sunday, 2:30 p.m.; Saturday, 8 p.m. Regular schedule: Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Ends Dec. 17. $24. (323) 462-8460. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

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