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Godspell - 40th Anniversary Concert (Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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The Palace Theatre in Manchester plays host to a one-off concert version of the musical Godspell to celebrate its 40th Anniversary. The concert stars west end stars Kerry Ellis (Wicked), Daniel Boys (well-known from the BBC’s Any Dream Will Do and Avenue Q) and Jonathan Williams (Les Miserables).

The concert takes the form of many of the musical’s songs interspersed with snippets about the musical’s history, written by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak, opening on Broadway in 1971.

Godspell is not a musical I’m familiar with. I know it’s based on St Matthew’s gospel (at least in part). I also know "Day by Day" (because obscure indie band Cud recorded it in the early 90s) and my friend informed me that David Essex starred in the original West End cast.

Star of the show Kerry Ellis gives knock-out performances in "Day by Day", "Bless My Soul the Lord" and "Turn Back O Man", her star quality seems obvious. Likewise, it’s a pleasure to hear Daniel Boys take on the poignant "Beautiful City."

In fact, all the performances are fine, better than fine; after "Alas For You", I am keen to see the charismatic Jonathan Williams again. What I struggle with is the musical itself and the concept of a concert which loses the story almost entirely and becomes an uneven mix of drama and dance thrown in with the songs. I’m not sure how comfortable some of the cast found this either.

Lyrically the songs seem an odd mix of biblical phrases and quite banal rhymes. And while a lot of the music has a soulful and funky 70s vibe it also feels dated. As vocally strong as much of the show is, the songs (perhaps due to some of the more verbatim biblical lyrics) don’t move me as much as other musicals and I don’t feel the need to book tickets for future productions Godspell.

But the trio of Kerry Ellis, Daniel Boys and Jonathan Williams make this concert worth seeing.

- Laura Maley


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