"Godspell" ensemble: L-R: Patrick Batiste, Briana Brooks, Andrew Metzger, Dani Nicole, Austin Miller, Mazie Wilson, Jared Price, Katherine Bottoms, Shannon Anderson, Megan Tisler, Heather Siembieda, Kolton Kolbaba in the background.
REVIEW BY NATALIA VIVINO
After facing an unfortunate power outage that resulted in a canceled performance on August 1st, the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center reopened its doors on Friday, August 8th to present audiences with its most current production, Godspell. Based on a series of parables from the Bible, this contemporary rock musical achieves in incorporating various religious tales with a modern twist.
Compared to the original production in 1971, director David Daniels modified the contents of the show, often incorporating the use of various pop culture references during scenes in order for audiences to easily draw connections from the stories presented on stage. Like many other musicals, Godspell is open to interpretation, and artistic flexibility is an added plus. It can constantly be modified to match the current times, while also maintaining several aspects of the original production.
A tight-knit cast of thirteen, accompanied by an onstage band led by Matthew Park, displays a strong bond throughout the entire show. The opening number is especially interesting, mainly because the actors use modern props (such as cellphones) that were simply not in existence during the 1970s in order to make a statement. For small portions of the show, the actors also spend time interacting with the audience, even picking random individuals to join them in different scenes so the audience can further grasp what is happening throughout. Hardly anyone spends more than five minutes offstage, and the large ensemble numbers, often accompanied with high-energy, upbeat choreography by Becky Castells, truly show off the performers’ endurance.
The first act is filled with good humor and cheer while incorporating key elements of the Bible’s teachings, paving the way for a much darker second act. There’s a grungy, inner-city sort of vibe in the set and costumes that adds to Godspell’s artistic atmosphere. Kolton Kalbaba, who plays the role of Jesus, brings forth many likeable and endearing qualities to the stage as the show’s leading man. Kolbaba mainly performs alongside Austin Miller, who doubles as Judas and John the Baptist. As usual, Miller never fails to impress with his natural skills and presence onstage.
As a whole, the entire cast has a strong sense of unity. A few particular standouts include Andrew Metzger, Mazie Wilson, and Dani Nicole. Metzger delivers a tremendous performance, never failing to make the audience laugh, while Wilson and Nicole display impressive vocal abilities. Everyone manages to maintain an even blend and incorporate creative dynamics during the large vocal numbers, and as actors, they are given the chance to improvise slightly as well. Classic songs such as “Day By Day,” “Learn Your Lessons Well,” and “All For The Best” remain timeless, and create a sort of pleasant contrast to the scenes that come after.
Performances of Godspell will continue to run for the next few weekends at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center,but by August 31st, its spell will have disappeared completely. All fans of live theatre are sure to appreciate its charm. For more information on tickets, visit www.simi-arts.org.
Natalia Vivino is a creative writing student at California Lutheran University as well as a performer. She was awarded Best Actress at the Second Annual Jerry Herman Awards for her work in “13,” and has been involved in the performing arts from a young age. Natalia was seen most recently in Cabrillo Music Theatre’s production of “Bye, Bye Birdie,” and plans on continuing to perform as well as write.