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REVIEW: "Godspell" - Footlights Theatrical Company

The performance of Godspell by Footlights is a delightful rendition that revitalises Stephen Schwartz's timeless musical with energy, humour, and heart. The music is a wild mixtape with something for everyone, spanning from upbeat pop to poignant ballads, traditional vaudeville, folk melodies, and lively acapella. I had no prior knowledge of this show before attending, so here's a quick rundown: a quirky group of people team up with Jesus Christ to creatively narrate various parables through a variety of games, storytelling styles, and song.

Director Isaac Brown has assembled a talented ensemble of ten individuals. These folks are like the Avengers of the performing arts world; being required to excel in singing complex harmonies and solos, demonstrate stamina in dance, deliver compelling acting, and fearlessly participate in spontaneous improvisation. These actors are like ninjas, constantly moving around the stage and theatre, pulling the audience into the action. You might even get picked for a starring role if you're brave enough to sit in the front row! Plus, the cast's enthusiasm is so palpable, you'll feel as though you've just downed a gallon of espresso!


Bailey Griffiths embodies the character of Jesus in a delightful manner. Imagine this: Jesus stepping into the role of your drama teacher, trying to wrangle a bunch of hyperactive students (yes, even us in the audience) with the same grace and finesse as Maria from The Sound of Music. Griffiths is multi-talented with killer vocals in "Beautiful City", smooth dance moves, ukulele skills, and compelling acting, Even when embodying a solemn character, he infuses his performance with a sprinkle of humour and a wealth of lively energy, capturing the essence of the beloved historical figure in every moment.

Dominic Bradley and William Chen are the dynamic duo of improv and comedy gold, always delivering quick-witted one-liners. Whenever Jesus dropped one of his trademark rhetorical questions, I was all ears for Dom or Will's response, as I knew it would be hilarious. Erin Hall’s sweet rendition of "Day by Day" is like a shot of happiness straight to the heart as it transforms into an uplifting group anthem. Her voice possesses a captivating combination of purity and power. Lilly Betts' puppet-aided "Learn Your Lessons Well" is a whimsical favourite, showcasing her versatility and charm. Holly Siemsen delivers a soulful performance with "Bless the Lord," her voice soaring beautifully through the church and her energy so contagious, it feels like she's throwing a party and everyone's invited to join the fun! Mark James possesses the most natural comedic flair, making him a joy to watch, particularly in the energetic closing number of Act One, "Light of the World."

The second act is rich with emotionally charged moments - Amanda Devlin's expressive facial acting brings a profound depth of feeling, while Dom Bradley trades in his jokes for a heart-wrenching performance as Judas. His rendition of the hauntingly beautiful "On the Willows" marks a pivotal point in the emotional arc of the story that highlights his hidden depths as a performer. The heartfelt performance of "All Good Gifts" by Will Chen was the perfect uplifting song to soothe me after the chaos of my journey to the show (thanks to a not-so-little car crash). "We Beseech Thee," led by the exuberant Isaac Tibbs, is a crowd-pleaser as he shamelessly engages in exaggerated theatrics to enhance the comedic effect.

Featuring the powerful voice of Hannah Macri, "Turn Back, O Man" is a sultry and stunning number that becomes one of the standout moments of the show. In contrast, the beautiful vocal harmonies in "By My Side," led by Amanda Devlin, offer a delightful change of pace from the more lively numbers. Isabelle Quayle’s choreography is whirlwind of energy, perfectly matching the high-octane score. Her tap/jazz extravaganza "All for the Best" is a showstopper that is exhilarating to watch and undoubtedly tiring to execute. The crucifixion and resurrection scenes are handled with sensitivity, offering an impactful climax to the show. The finale is a joyous explosion of movement and music, capturing the spirit of camaraderie and celebration that defines the show.

Admittedly, the vocals may seem a bit fatigued, but can you really blame them? Considering the cast's non-stop presence on stage and their intense physical performance, it is understandable. These performers give it their all; like energiser bunnies that just keep going and going. The staging, with its in-the-round configuration, adds to the challenge, but the cast navigates it with aplomb. The performers only need to keep in mind that they are very close to the audience and have microphones, so there is no need to exert extra effort in projecting their voices. I believe most of the vocal strain arose from the artists competing to sing louder than one another, which is not required in this small space. The only other issue is that I am a mere mortal with only one pair of eyes and ears, so unfortunately I can't pay attention to everyone simultaneously like I wish I could.

Isaac Brown’s direction is innovative, blending scripted moments (about 40% of the show) with pre-scripted improv and spontaneous moments to keep the audience on their toes. He guides the ensemble in balancing humour with the heartfelt themes of kindness, tolerance, and love. The costume choices combine elements of hippie fashion, with comfortable and playful outfits that reflect the joyous nature of the musical while also grounding it in a contemporary context. And the clever pop culture nods sprinkled in? They add a contemporary touch that hits the right spot with today's crowd. Isaac's directorial vision is clear: to create a show that is both entertaining and thought-provoking, and he succeeds brilliantly.

This production of Godspell is a testament to the incredible talent within Brisbane’s theatre community. The cast, direction, music led by Benjamin Richards, and choreography combine to deliver a memorable experience. While some additional rehearsal could polish the intricate harmonies and extensive choreography, the sheer talent and passion of the cast are undeniable. Whether you're familiar with the parables or not, Godspell is like a warm hug for your brain and a tickle for your funny bone. It's all about celebrating community, faith, and spreading love like confetti. So grab yourself a ticket before it closes on July 13!

Tickets available here


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