My ‘Wicked’ past 

Call me sentimental, man, but the 2017 National Touring production of “Wicked,” starring Jessica Vosk as Wicked Witch of the West Elphaba and Ginna Claire Mason as Glinda the Good Witch, made me cry because it reminded me of the time and people who left handprints on my heart, helping me most to grow.

You see, “Wicked,” the Tony Award-winning musical written by Stephen Schwatz and Winnie Holzman based on Gregory Maguire’s rewriting of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz,” was the anthem to my high school career. “For Good” was my high school class song. And my best friends literally sang “Loathing” and “Popular” in my ear since we were 13-year-old freshmen daring to defy gravity.

I’ve never seen the musical before, but my best friends were the Elphabas of my high school: smart, courageous, outspoken and different. (We all were in a way.) And perhaps that’s what united us. The fact that we were different.

I was never as brave as Elphaba or Glinda. As the child of immigrants with a funny sounding name, I’ve spent most of my pre-teen years trying to be invisible. But like Glinda at the Oz Dust Ball Room, they reached out, asking me to join their lunch table and included me. And that means the world when you’re young. It was brilliant.

They gave me my voice, and ignited my passions. We sang in streets and hallways; explored New York City, Disney and Cedar Point like they were the Emerald City; and listened to burned CDs of the original cast recording of the “Wicked” soundtrack even after it was scratched and skipping from overuse.

Together we were unlimited. Flying. Soaring. As we traded notes, books and secrets under stars.

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I wish everyone finds a friendship like Elphaba and Glinda’s — people who change you for the good. I know I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for them.

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Why you should be binge-watching ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’

Have you ever danced when no one’s watching? Really danced. You know, the kind of dancing where you’re blasting bad punk rock songs that somehow ends up in jumping on your bed doing ridiculous air guitar solos?

That’s what it kind of feels like binge-watching Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna’s TV musical rom-com “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” It’s heroine Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) is the kind of bad-ass that could give Emma Stone a run for her money in “Easy A” – the kind of fearless and impulsive heroine who quits her lucrative job at a big New York City law firm to move to middle-of-nowhere So-Cal to chase after an ex-boyfriend (Vincent Rodriguez III) that she had a brief two-month summer fling with at summer camp when she was 16.

Crazy and stupid? Yes. But on some level, it’s also absurdly amusing to watch. I mean, who hasn’t imagined that prince charming whose kiss wakes you up from your nightmares, that prince who rescues you from imprisonment, that prince who marries you out of poverty and generally makes your life more pleasant? And here’s a gal who’s taking charge of her life and actively trying to find him.

While we know real life doesn’t work this way and that a guy can’t fix our anxieties and depression, Bunch plays out these impossible fairy-tale fantasies — these fantasies that tells us that we can actually make it after quitting that miserable $95,000 job and moving to an island to scoop ice cream. That fantasy that we can be happy somehow and that we don’t have to medicate with pills or alcohol and that all your problems could magically disappear. To add to the fantastical and improbable, the cast at “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” occasionally break into original songs, singing about sexy French depressions, heavy boobs and urinary tract infections.

At times, the lyrics to the music sounds like the whimsical type of things a child would make up when narrating her whole life in song — not that that’s a bad thing. The “I have friends” song is extremely catchy and filled with cheerful optimism and self-denial.

At other times, the musical numbers parodies things we’re familiar with. It’s opening number “West Covina” (and its reprises) is a homage to those big, sweeping, Broadway musicals numbers where a character sings about those life-changing moments. In another number, a troupe of plaintiffs sing “Can you hear a trickling sound?” to the tune of “Les Miserables'” protest anthem “Do you hear the people sing?”

The music’s inspiration is wide and eclectic, though. The actors give a nod to Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and old Hollywood in a song about settling for less.

A bartender (Fontana) plays a piano solo at an empty bar on Thanksgiving to the tune of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” a one-man boy band (Rodriguez) sings about kissing childhood dramas goodbye, and a pair of Jewish American Princesses perform a rap battle.

Even when “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” seems like it’s following fairy-tale conventions, it’s constantly breaking them. The show’s heroine (Bloom) sings about being the villain rather than the fairy-tale princess and a bird abruptly flies away when Bloom attempts to sing to it.

What’s more is that Bunch isn’t some silly, damsel in distress; she’s a smart, resourceful and successful lawyer with degrees at both Harvard and Yale. Her prince also isn’t a white John Smith who kidnaps Pocahontas; the leading man’s a really nice Filipino bro named Josh Chan with white sidekicks like White Josh (David Hull) and Greg Serrano (Fontana).

And while the show’s girl-chases-after-guy plot seems to throw feminism out the window, Bloom and McKenna also insert scenes girls wish would really happen in real life. A musical number showing a guy seeing the ritual a girl goes through when preparing to go on a date with him ends with the guy calling up all his past hookups and apologizing for taking how he took how they looked for granted.

Bloom and McKenna’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is a guilty pleasure and binge-watching all 18 episodes of its first season feels eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food all by yourself, but even so, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is a refreshing show with substance — featuring a diverse and multiracial cast; witty, self-deprecating commentary; and encouraging the healthy kind of belly laughs that almost tastes as good as gooey marshmallow and caramel swirls with fudge fish.

The CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” was created by Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna. The show’s first season is available on Netflix. 

 

‘Hamilton’s America’: a non-stop roller coaster

It’s 2014 and Lin-Manuel Miranda describes his life as a roller coaster — as if he were strapped into the ride as it’s climbing up. At this point of his life, he’s waiting for rehearsals to begin while still composing the words to “Hamilton.”

At this point of his life, “Hamilton” hasn’t sold out in its off-Broadway production at the Public Theater.

“Hamilton” hasn’t been touted as “the greatest thing we’ve ever seen ever” on the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”

“Hamilton” hadn’t moved to its Broadway location at the Richard Rodgers’ Theatre.

“Hamilton” hasn’t won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. 

At this point of his life, Miranda’s just moved into a new apartment, waiting for the birth of his son and preparing for “Hamilton.”

“This is the part of the roller coaster’s that’s just going up,” he says.

And that’s what watching Alex Horwitz’s PBS documentary “Hamilton’s America” (2016) feels like — as if you, too, were on strapped into a roller coaster as it climbs the tracks. The pinnacle of this ride would have been seeing the musical in its entirety on the Broadway stage with its original cast members, but watching “Hamilton’s America’s” premiere on PBS Friday may have been the next best thing.

“Hamilton’s America” builds with momentum, taking you behind-the-scenes as Miranda tells the story of Alexander Hamilton — America’s founding father who derived much of the modern banking system, penned most of the Federalist Papers and was shot by Aaron Burr.

You probably know more of his story — like how he was George Washington’s chief of staff during the Revolutionary War or how he was was “a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman.”

Much of Hamilton’s modern fame is due to Miranda’s musical, which you’ve probably sampled on iTunes, Spotify or YouTube.

But while watching a complete run through of “Hamilton” would have been educational and entertaining enough, Horwitz’s documentary delivers both history and insight. Told by interviews from Miranda, Senator Elizabeth Warren, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, President Barack Obama, composer Stephen Sondheim, rapper Nas and historian Ron Chernow, “Hamilton’s America” gives you an understanding of Hamilton’s accomplishments as well as Miranda’s creative process.

The inspiration behind “Hamilton” is Chernow’s biography “Alexander Hamilton.” Miranda saw Hamilton’s story as a hip hop story and wrote and performed its title track as part of the White House’s Poetry, Music & Spoken Word Night in May 2009.

He spent the next seven years researching and writing the words to “Hamilton,” visiting historical sites such as Valley Forge National Historical Park, the Morris-Jumel Mansion and Mount Vernon.

The project gained speed with the help of Tony Award-winning musical director Alex Lacamoire and director Thomas Kail. But the real magic is in Miranda’s words — which translate history to music and brings lessons from the classroom to life.

“What it did was capture the fact that the Founding Fathers were to some degree flying by the seats of their pants and making it up as they went along,” said President Obama. “And the fact that the experiment worked was a testimony to their genius and you can draw a direct connection to what the founders were doing and what we’re doing today.”

That’s one of the remarkable things about “Hamilton’s America” — that his story is ours. But to hear “Hamilton” in our language of rap and R&B and hip hop makes it more real than reading it in a textbook.

Just like how the “Hamilton” musical made American history more accessible, Horwitz’s PBS documentary makes the musical “Hamilton” accessible to the America who’s heard the music, but haven’t been able to buy tickets to the show.

But while “Hamilton’s America” teases us with performances from the musical, it doesn’t satiate our thirst to watch and learn more.

Hard not to fall in love with ‘The Last Five Years’

It’s hard to make a relationship work when both parties are traveling in opposite directions. That’s the case for Jamie Wellerstein (Jeremy Jordan) and his wife Cathy Hiatt (Anna Kendrick), whose tragically failed marriage is the subject of Jason Robert Brown’s autobiographical 2002 off-Broadway musical and Richard LaGravenese’s subsequent adapted film.

“The Last Five Years” starts at its ending: a dark, mostly empty New York City apartment where Cathy is reflecting on her failed marriage and her plateauing acting career. As Cathy is moving backwards in life, Jamie is moving forward. At age 23, Jamie’s debut novel, “Light Out of Darkness,” is picked up by Random House and becomes an instant bestseller.

Told through alternating point-of-views which are mostly sung, Cathy’s story is told in reverse while Jamie’s starts at its beginning. Their story meets at the middle with their marriage in Central Park (“The Next Ten Minutes”).

Perhaps intentionally, that number — like the marriage’s foundation — is particularly shaky. The camera (held by cinematographer Steven Meizler) uncomfortably wobbles as the couple circle through Central Park.

But the symbolism doesn’t affect the actors’ voices. Jordan and Kendrick are pitch perfect, playing charismatic leads. “The Schmuel Song,” a silly little ballad that will appeal to any writer’s heart, is absurdly cute and it makes us fall in love with Jordan. Meanwhile Kendrick’s stream-of-concious asides in “Climbing Uphill/Audition Sequence” are refreshingly sincere.

But those aren’t “The Last Five Years'” only high notes. The ending duet, when it inevitably comes, is surprisingly poignant.

“The Last Five Years” was written and directed by Richard LaGraveness based on Jason Robert Brown’s musical. 

‘The Broadway Melody’ sounds out of tune

Opening the 65th annual Tony Awards, host Neil Patrick Harris sang a showstopping number about the status of Broadway: “It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore!”

His tongue-in-cheek song signifies how the tune of Broadway has changed from its golden era of “The Broadway Melody” (1929) to its current clientele: “the gays and the Jews; and cousins-in-from-out-of-town that you have to amuse.”

The changing lifestyles and viewpoints might explain why the familiar, melodramatic storyline of “The Broadway Melody” sounds sour. Although the film won the second annual Academy Award for best picture in 1930, the overplayed storyline (written by playwright Edmund Goulding, Sarah Y. Mason, Norman Houston and James Gleason) is trite and oversimplified.

Directed by Harry Beaumont, “The Broadway Melody” stars Anita Page and Bessie Love as sisters, Hank and Queenie Mahoney. Like Katharine McPhee’s character in NBC’s cancelled television series “Smash,” Hank and Queenie have dreams of stardom: to sing and dance on Broadway, playing back-up dancer to Hank’s fiancé Eddie Kearns (Charles King).

Like “Smash,” this tale stars drama, jealousy and ego; however, this “Broadway” isn’t synonymous with a “broad’s way.” Men make the rules and Hank and Queenie have to fight for one spot: to be the leading lady in Eddie Kearn’s life. After all, his leading lady gets to star behind him — both on and off stage.

If anything, “The Broadway Melody” got its award for its production value at the time. The film was MGM’s first musical and its among the world’s first talkies. This one was complete with “bigger” song-and-dance numbers than anything before 1929.

There’s even long tap dancing sequences.

But life isn’t a musical and we’re not charmed by neither the film’s formulaic script nor its dated production. Instead, we’re wishing for “better” rather than “bigger.”

“The Broadway Melody” was directed by Harry Beaumont and written by Edmund Goulding, Sarah Y. Mason, Norman Houston and James Gleason. The film won Best Picture in the second annual Academy Awards. 

‘Les Miserables’ Lives On

For an audience used to seeing “Les Miserables” on stage for the past 25-plus years, Tom Hooper’s direction and Danny Cohen’s cinematography may seem strange.

Their film adaption of the musical, based on the French historical novel by Victor Hugo, is about Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a French convict who served 19 years in jail over stealing a loaf of bread. After Valjean is released on parole, he is caught stealing silver from a bishop (Colm Wilkinson) who gave him shelter. Instead of accusing Valjean, the bishop says he gave Valjean the silver. Valjean repays the bishop’s kindness by trying to protect Fantine’s (Anne Hathaway) daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen, Amanda Seyfried) after her mother passes away. Meanwhile, his parole officer Javert (Russell Crowe) hunts Valjean for not returning from parole.

While the story of “Les Miserables” has already been adapted in book, stage, radio and film form, Hooper and Cohen’s film brings the musical closer than ever before. Cohen’s camera zooms into Jean Valjean’s face as he is singing. The camera is shaky, as if Cohen is shooting on monkey cam, with the camera slung over his shoulder, rather than on tripod.

Meanwhile, Jackman is breaking the fourth wall of the boxed proscenium stage, staring directly at the camera while backlit by the sky or the bright, ornate church décor. It’s a bold choice — and it’s unsettling to see an actor’s face blown up — with their eyes piercing into your soul — on the silver screen while they sing their soliloquy. But although Cohen consistently zooms into an actor’s face so they are staring at the camera and confronting the viewer, this filming technique is both a hit and a miss throughout different segments of the film.

The most effective use of this technique is when Hooper is telling Fantine’s story. The subjective camera captures Hathaway’s pain as she pleas for money for her daughter. The close-up shots show Hathaway’s vulnerability, nakedness and despair when she loses her job at the factory, her hair when she’s begging for money, and her virginity when she is raped as a prostitute. The closeness and immediacy of the camera enhances Hathaway’s performance.

Meanwhile, Hathaway’s high piercing voice conveys a range of emotion as she sings the renowned title song, “I Dreamed a Dream,” through a stream of tears. At times it’s frail as she whispers her words. At other times, her voice is laced with venom and rage for the overwhelming unfairness of her situation. From pleas and gasps to fire and anger, Hathaway’s performance changes how you hear “I Dreamed a Dream” — and for the first time, you begin to understand what the song really means.

The closeness of the camera also forces the viewer to confront filth and poverty. After all, how can you refuse poverty when they stare you in the face and beg you to listen? The film shows the fingers of the poor and homeless reaching out for you as the undercurrent of rebellion and the French Revolution boils. Meanwhile, Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone) is singing, “Think you’re poor? Think you’re free? Follow me! Follow me!” Watching the French resistance of the 19th century, you can’t help but think of the residue of fire in the Occupy movement who crowded the parks of New York City just a year ago.

On the other end of the spectrum, Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen shine as the gaudy carpetbaggers, Mr. and Mrs. Thenardier, the greedy innkeepers who keep Cosette until her mother Fantine can settle her debt. Both Bonham Carter and Baron Cohen are known for their over-the-top roles with Bonham Carter playing slightly mad characters such as Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd” and Bellatrix Lestrange in the “Harry Potter” films, and Baron Cohen playing absurd and comical characters such as Borat and Bruno. Although both actors may be typecast as the Thenardiers, the two work well together. While Bonham Carter is making out with guests in their number “Master of the House,” Baron Cohen is patting down guests while pick-pocketing them. Combined with lunacy and ridiculousness, the two are perfect for the role.

Yet while the Thenardiers are supposed to be ridiculous and over-the-top, the camera work and editing is ridiculous, making the audience very aware that this is a film and not a play. Even though the actors may hear the orchestra in their ears while singing live during each take, the dizzying aerial shots and the extreme close ups of the actors sometimes overshadow the actors’ talent. Eddie Redmayne, who plays Marius, Cosette’s love interest, appears as a lovesick Romeo whose talent is being pretty for a majority of the film. However, after Marius is wounded and Redmayne is singing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” Redmayne releases more genuine waterworks. For such a morose scene, it would be fitting to tell the story with longer and slower shots. However, the nice profile shot of Redmayne is quickly replaced by a shot of Redmayne crying at the camera, staring directly at you. Then you see a shot of Redmayne singing in an empty room with empty chairs and empty tables. While Redmayne is bearing his heart and mourning the death of his friends, the editing makes Redmayne’s distress look cheap rather than subtle. Instead you are bludgeoned with multiple shots and camera angles that seem too intrusive on his pain, when all you want to see is Redmayne’s still profile as he is quietly mourning. The scene seems even cheaper and even more out of place when Amanda Seyfried suddenly appears and the two get married. The drastic shift between sadness and happiness causes vertigo, just as the shaky camera movements and badly framed shots showing actors with their foreheads cut off, bring you out of the story.

But in the end, the camera work doesn’t matter. You may be upset about why Jackman is back lit as he is pacing or how Cosette’s appearance seems to stifle Redmayne’s grief, but in the end, you can’t help being swept away by the music, which washes over you like a familiar wave. You can’t help but feel the solidarity as all the actors return to sing, “Do You Hear the People Sing.” You only wish the actors would run and return on the stage to sing an encore.

After all, isn’t the music all that matters? The Broadway musical hasn’t been translated into 21 languages and played more than 47,000 times to audiences of more than 60 million people worldwide for nothing.

‘Rock of Ages’: a guilty pleasure

It’s 1987. “Rock ‘n’ roll is a disease,” or so says Patricia Whitman (Catherine Zeta-Jones), wife of Los Angeles Mayor Mike Whitman (Bryan Stanton). The problem — Patty says — lies in “sex, hateful music, and…”

Patty pauses like former GOP Presidential Candidate Rick Perry did when trying to name the three governmental agencies he would eliminate.

“Sex,” she finally says as the conservative women around her gasp in horror.

Meanwhile, the supposedly dark and dirty realm of rock ‘n’ roll — embodied by rock god Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), front man of the band Arsenal — is trying to persevere against the burgeoning ’90s boy bands that are ‘pop-ing’ up among the 14- to 21-year-old crowd. You already know how this story ends. (I’ll give you a hint: It’s a Journey power ballad recently resurrected by Fox’s hit television show “Glee.”)

Despite the predictability and cheesiness of “Rock of Ages” — (you would think with Fox’s “Glee” and NBC’s “Smash,” we would be used to people singing about their feelings by now) — it does what’s any Broadway musical is designed to do. It’s a safe, crowd-pleaser — comfortable and familiar like your favorite stuffed animal, fairy tale, or Bon Jovi song. You have your young heroine who gets on a bus to follow her dreams, a rock wizard who disappointingly turns out to be no more than a man hiding behind a curtain, a budding “Rolling Stones” journalist looking for a story but falling in love instead, and an opening sequence where everyone in a moving bus starts singing. (Does it sound like the plot to “Almost Famous” yet?)

In addition to the familiarity of the story, a familiar cast of actors propels the show. Catherine Zeta-Jones is known in another musical movie role as “Chicago’s” vaudeville actress Velma Kelly. Russell Brand is known for his comedic charm in movies such as “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Alec Baldwin is Jack Donaghy of NBC’s “30 Rock” and ‘brass balls’ Blake from “Glengarry Glen Ross.” (At one point, Baldwin’s character Dennis, the owner of rock ‘n’ roll club, The Bourbon Room, talks about a band named Concrete Balls.) And who could forget Tom Cruise — strutting half naked for half the movie, eluding sex, seductiveness, and vulnerability.

“Rock of Ages” is different from director and choreographer Adam Shankman’s previous canon “Hairspray” because it covers Los Angeles’ underworld — from rock ‘n’ world to prostitution — while “Hairspray” features a teen-friendly television dance show. Still, that doesn’t make the singing and dancing numbers of either any less well done. Catherine Zeta-Jones does high kicks in a skirt while singing Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” Tom Cruise straddles a microphone while he sings Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.” Julianna Hough pole dances as she sings Journey’s “Anyway You Want It.” Diego Boneto jumps up on the table as he sings a mash-up of Foreigner’s “Jukebox Hero” and Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” The choreography to “Rock of Ages” is fun and high energy, even if the song transitions and plot are cheap and obvious. But like watching “Glee” these days, aren’t the music and big performance numbers why you’re still tuning in in the first place? And if rock ‘n’ roll is still a disease, “Rock of Ages” is also bound to be a guilty pleasure — so bad that you can’t help but watch.

“Rock of Ages” is directed by Adam Shankman and written by Chris D’Arienzo, Allan Loeb, and Justin Theroux.

To see this published in Imprint Magazine, click here.

Jesus’ ‘Godspell’ knocks on today’s door

Despite more than 20 centuries since the birth of Christ, the values and teachings of Jesus still ring true in contemporary terms — or at least that’s what the new revival of Stephen Schwartz’s timeless musical “Godspell” proves.

Under the direction of Daniel Goldstein, the formerly famous off-Broadway production portrays the ‘gospel according to Matthew’ in modern times. The opening prologue featured the cast sporting backpacks, jackets, handbags and other accessories labeled with the names of scholars, philosophers, religious leaders and forward thinkers such as Socrates, Aquinas, Galileo and L. Ron Hubbard, but cast members were also calling and texting on their phones and BlackBerrys. Later in the musical, a reference is made to Steve Jobs in heaven as well as the iPad tablet being the latest version of Bible texts. Other mentions of current events and people include the Occupy Wall Street movement, Donald Trump, Gaddafi’s death and Obama’s stimulus package.

In addition to modernizing the musical by referencing current events, “Godspell” also adopts a youthful and energetic vibe because of the young cast, which stars 24-year-old Hunter Parrish as Jesus, Wallace Smith as Judas, and “Hannah Montana” star Anna Maria Perez De Tagle, “Glee” star Telly Leung, Celisse Henderson, George Salzar, Lindsay Mendez, Morgan James, Ubo Aduba, and Nick Blaemire as disciples. Clad in jeans and a white button down shirt over his white t-shirt, Parrish lacks the long, flowing robes or long brown, wavy hair one might typically envision with Jesus. However, Parrish, best known for his character Silas Botwin in the television series “Weeds,” brings charisma and energy to his performance, becoming the magnetic individual that everyone wants as a friend. He does this by drawing other cast members as well as audience members with his infectious smiles, leaps in the air and laughter.

The contemporary feel of characters and materials, the use of impersonations, props and charades becomes a new way to retell Jesus’s parables as well as teach His rules, lessons and beatitudes. George Salazar’s narration becomes comical as he voices for Lindsay Mendez as she lip syncs to his words. Other scenes also have a similar tongue-in-cheek commentary, such as when Leung impersonates famous movie scenes such as Scarlett O’Hara’s (Vivien Leigh) phrase — “I will never go hungry again” — in the 1939 film “Gone with the Wind.” In another memorable scene, pieces of newsprint are used to create the head, arms, legs and torso of the man who is eventually saved by the Good Samaritan.  Similarly, lights and triangular materials are used to replicate the talking heads and mouths of the Pharisees who questioned Jesus.

Despite the light-heartedness and storytelling at the center of Act I, the conclusion of Act II takes on a more somber note. This is where Judas’s inevitable betrayal takes place as well as Jesus’s breakdown. “Could you not stay awake for one hour?” Jesus tells his disciples after he comes back to find them asleep. The “Finale” is particularly emotional, showing Parrish raised on a crucifix, ending with Smith and the rest of the cast carrying his limp body off stage.

The fact that the Circle in the Square theatre showcases ‘theatre in the round’ adds to the intimate element of the production. Julia Mattison, Morgan James’ understudy, comments on this “circular” element of the theatre firsthand after she says her lyrics, “I’m going to the front of the theatre” in the number “Turn Back O Man.” (“There is not front, there’s only this circle,” Mattison said.) Yet the stage provides the audience with a forum to see Jesus’s stories unfold — and the stories would be seen differently from every vantage point. Audience members are invited on stage at various points in the performance, and the orchestra, which consists of guitar, bass and piano players, are scattered among the audience. Trap doors beneath the stage are also utilized effectively to create a water site for Jesus’s baptism in the opening number “Prepare Ye” as well as trampolines for the cast to jump on.

Despite 40 years since it was last performed on the Broadway stage, “Godspell” is sure to entertain generations to come in its contemporary 2011 revival.

“Godspell” is performed at the Circle in the Square on W. 50th St. next to the Gershwin Theatre in New York City. Tickets can be purchased here.