Godspell is 40 years old. Why do you think it has been so successful?
I think Godspell was something new and different when it first came out and that was interesting to people.
Great music, an important & familiar story; all wrapped up, beautifully, in a simple format which is wide open for creativity.. I've seen Godspell a number of times, over the last 15 years, done by different companies, amateur & professional - and what struck me each time is how versatile a piece it is.
One of the major factors, I believe, is the accessibility of the music. Stephen Schwartz is a genious song writer and lyricist. Godspell has an easy score to enjoy with some beautiful, haunting and very catchy songs in it. It also has the biblical element to it, so it's the perfect musical for schools and churches to put on. And with Schwartz's current hit musical Wicked - more and more people will be interested in hearing and researching his older works.
What are your favourite songs in the show?
I think my favourite song would be "Day by Day" just a beautifully simple melody that I will enjoy singing.
I love all of them... I am especially fond of the beautiful lullaby like harmonies in "By My Side" & "On The Willows" - mmm.. Haunting!! I love the sentiment & melody of Beautiful City".. But my favourites have always been "Save the People" & "Alas for You". The content is powerful. I'm a true believer in simply asking "WHY?" throughout life. I constantly search to better gain an understanding of where I & we are all heading on this journey of life so my thirst for knowledge is never quenched.. These two songs reflect that.. But apart from that, I really enjoy singing them & rocking out a bit I guess..
There are so many great songs! "On the Willows" was the first song I ever heard from the show. I sang it in a charity concert when I was 17. Whilst training at Drama School I was obsessed with "Day by Day."
Do you think the show is still as relevant to audiences as it was?
I think there are still people who don't know much about Godspell so will be experiencing it for the first time, and those that do know it seem to love it, so there is definitely an audience there for this show.
Of course..! Its art.. Art is always & forever relevant.. Without such things, we as a species we will fail to evolve correctly. The creative side of the brain doesn't have as much stimulus nowadays as the order keeping, list making side of the brain does, purely due to the modern day pressures of living in a financially & materialistically driven society.. For us to progress as humans to a higher spiritual plane (correct evolution) we must allow both sides of our brains to function with equal opportunity. Wild, dreamlike creativity, the same as organised, boxlike functionality.. That's my view on the importance & relevance of all things art & creative. But yes, I do think Godspell is still relevant.. Just take one aspect - the story.. St Matthew's Gospel is an important piece of text as it stands anyway. Whether you're religious or not, spiritual or not you can't fail to see that the story offers us some wonderful advice on how we could better function as a society. Ignore fear & live in love.. That's relevant for all time.
I do yes. There are some who might want to stay away from Godspell because of its Christian subject matter. The messages of the play, however, are not limited to one religion: they are universal. The piece is more about being part of a community and has a powerful reminder of the importance of friendship in this modern and somewhat cynical world.
Can tell us what's great about performing in a concert syle piece, as opposed to a West End Show?
You have a little more freedom in a concert, in a West End show you are telling a story as a character where as a concert you are yourself trying to give the song life.
I honestly have no preference in that respect. My career as a performer began in singing & the reason I love singing is simply because of the beautiful platform that music & song provide an artist with to tell a story & share emotions. Whatever the format; concert, show, play, movie, recital.. Etc.. They're all great in equal measure as far as I'm concerned. As performers we get the chance to communicate an infinite myriad of creative ideas to our audiences, who have come for a million different reasons to, in some way, escape into a world that makes them feel something. Hopefully something new, I guess.. Whenever a group of people gather & are compelled to stop & look, sit & watch, pay & enjoy the material, opinions, ideas, abilities & activities of others it becomes dramatic & entertaining. It's all theatre really, all story telling. It's all great..
I have been lucky over the past few years and have had the opportunity to perform in an array of concerts.With a concert style show, it enables us, the actors and the audience to really listen to the songs and lyrics without the distractions of a set, props or costumes. There's something about standing on a stage with a big orchestra behind you and simply singing that I just love!!
What have been your favourite roles to date and why?
This is so tough as I have loved every show and character I have played. Obviously Wicked was incredible and took me to Broadway, Oliver was great fun, WWRY was my first original role so very special, Les Miserables and Miss Saigon are just classics and My Fair Lady was my first. They are all special to me.
Jean Valjean in Les Miserables - because every aspect of the role is a challenge. I'm stretched vocally, physically & mentally in every single performance. The journey through the levels of characterisation for Valjean is so fantastically endless. Victor Hugo made him so wonderfully deep, layered & complicated that even after years of playing & covering Valjean, I'm not only still discovering new things & growing in the role, the role teaching me things too helping me grow as a man. I value it tremendously.
It would have to be Tony in West Side Story. To me, this is the greatest musical ever written. The music, the lyrics and the book are all perfectly formed. I feel very lucky that I got to sing such a stunning score night after night. I was touring around Europe with it too! Playing Princeton and Rod in Avenue Q was also a very fun and challenging job. It is a show and time of my life that I will always cherish.
What have you seen on stage recently that has blown you away?
I went to see Ghost and loved it, I also saw Batman Live! which is fantastic.
Blood Brothers on tour.. The whole cast were fantastic, best I've ever seen it. Especially Kelly-Anne Gower as Linda. It was as if the role had been written for her. She broke the heart of every single person in the audience. The Pill scene tore me to pieces.. amazing!
I recently saw Batman Live! at the O2. Wow!! It was fantastic. Such an epic show with so many special effects and stunts. I highly recommend it!
What are your future plans?
I would love to do a new show and create a role again, I'm working on more songs, another album and european tour for next year, I have 'an audience with' at the shaw coming up at the end of this month. I'd like to do some TV too. I love working and being busy.
Work hard, play hard.. WORK HARDER..! Have children - grow up a bit. WORK HARDER.. VERY HARD...!
I am playing Peter in a new musical version of Peter Pan this Christmas in Southampton. It's a beautiful, new adaptation of the classic story. I am also planning my second album. My debut album "So Close" is still selling well, which I am overwhelmed by. I want album no. 2 to have a different feel to it, so it's taking me a while to get it right. But it will happen. I also have a few more concert dates coming up at the end of this year and into 2012. It's been a busy year and I hope that 2012 will be equally so!
Why should audiences come and see Godspell?
It's a great cast and will be a fantastic night out, simple as that!
OK.. Because its a great piece, its a milestone event (40 years), a fantastic cast of amazing performers, a really special evening and you'll actually love it..! The last thing you want is to get that phone call from a friend who went to see it.. They'll go on & on about how good it was, how much fun they had, who they met, text a picture of themselves having the time of their lives... yada yada... And though you'll be happy for them, you know that what comes next is the inevitable agony of having to try & smile through some gut wrenching envy.. Best thing to do is just come along... Its going to be a blast - can't wait!
It has a fantastic cast singing a fantastic, iconic score. I guarantee a very fun and enjoyable one off theatrical evening.
Kerry Ellis, Jonathan Williams and Daniel Boys were speaking to Glenn Meads.
Godspell is at the Palace Theatre on 21 October.