Godspell preps for final week at LST

Monica Nordeen is shown acting in the Lake Superior Theatre's rendition of Godspell. The musical will be showing matinees today and Aug. 26, with other performances set for Tuesday through Friday. (Courtesy photo)

By B.G. BRADLEY

Special to the Journal

MARQUETTE — What is profound remains profound no matter how much time has passed. The 50 years since the first production of Godspell and even the nearly 2,000 years since the writing of the Book of Matthew are no barriers to what touches the heart, mind, soul and spirit. The words remain and only get stronger with time. These facts are well in evidence during Lake Superior Theatre’s production of Godspell running Tuesday-Friday through Aug. 26, with matinee performances today and Aug. 26 at the Frazier Boathouse.

Amy Malaney’s close-to-the-bone production of the Christian counterculture favorite is spare and true, from the sets to the earnest and affecting renditions of the familiar songs. The simple set blends elements of the boathouse with the back alley urban feel of the original complete with “Peace” graffiti, tie-dyed shirts on the clotheslines and a few suitable anachronisms including a WWJD? (What would Jesus Do?) painted question.

The cast is clothed by Tami Seavoy and Malaney in so apt ’60s mismatch rag-shop with nice suggestions of character completely embedded. Between set and costumes alone, the audience is well placed in an era, with just a hint of the now.

The music is handled masterfully by music director Jeff Bruning and his band, which captures the rock, folk, gospel and even ragtime feel of the songs with seamless aplomb.

Lighting and Sound design by Jim Pennell and Dan Zini, respectively, are suitably moody, simple and clear.

As Jesus, Ethan Bott is open, child-like and endearing. One wonders watching him if this innocent Christ figure is quite ready for what’s coming, and by the time the show reaches “Beautiful City” hearts are suitably broken.

As John the Baptist/Judas, young Orion Ingmire is agile and wraith-like, with just the right qualities of street urchin wonderfully contrasted by a powerful and articulate speaking voice.

Often shows are only as strong as their ensembles and this Godspell has an extra strong one, including Susan Candey, Jeff Spencer, Monica Nordeen, Sara Parks, Jill Grundstrom, Anna Daavetilla, Ryan White and Nathaniel Langlie. Candey’s always-evident range shows up over and over from soaring high notes, to out-and-out baby talk, and is particularly affecting in her soft solo on “Long Live God,” the show’s finale. Spencer is ready as always with his big, but surprisingly sweet voice on song after song and his particularly fun turn on the lesser known “Hear Us.” His acting chops, too, provide several small but telling moments. Nordeen, too, shows off her acting chops throughout and is strikingly poignant in her duet with Candey on “Where are You Going?” Parks does several fun comic turns and shows off a powerful and expressive voice. Grundstrom, Daavetilla, White and Langlie all have their moments as well, professionally filling the numerous musical, dramatic and comic, even vaudevillian characterizations.

From the the opening babble of philosophers to the closing reprise of “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” this is a fully realized and affecting Godspell. The words and music still live well indeed.

With only one more week, Tuesday through Friday, plus the Sunday matinees, get your tickets soon. You can visit Northern Michigan University’s Berry Events Center for tickets; call NMU’s ticket system at 906-227-1032, or book your reserved seat online directly at tickets.nmu.edu. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m except for the 3p.m. matinees for Godspell. Parking is in the lower harbor so you can soak in the Lake Superior vistas and our million dollar lobby view. If you need special accommodations for seating or parking be sure to let LST know at 906-227-7625 and they will make sure you are taken care of.

EDITOR’S NOTE: B.G. Bradley is an English and drama teacher, director, poet, playwright and author of the Hunter Lake novel series now available at local book outlets.