Stephen Schwartz' Godspell is currently playing at the Conejo Players Theatre in Thousand Oaks, California. And what a joy it is for audiences of all ages.
For those who are not familiar with the show, Godspell is an ensemble piece with Jesus (played at the CPT by lyrical tenor Bennie Glasner) teaching the acting troupe parables from the Gospel of Matthew through song and skit. The acting troupe - featuring David White as John the Baptist/Judas Iscariot and 10 other actors who go by their own names on stage. Using improvisation, comedy, and contagious numbers, the story moves seamlessly from one vignette to another.
As per the norm with local community theatre, there are the stand-outs that make you sit up and pay extra attention and the Conejo Players Theatre' youthful troupe (actors ranging from 16-late 20s) is no exception with some truly energetic and entertaining performances.
Three cheers to this production's stand-outs, Mikayla Sullivan and 16 year old Hailey Rae Smith, who sparkle throughout the ensemble piece and give solid performances of their solo numbers, including Day by Day and Bless the Lord. At Sunday's matinee I could not take my eyes off of Mikayala Sullivan (wearing the cream colored peasant dress w/ short brown hair) and when she began to sing during her number, Bless the Lord, I got chills. That girl has pipes and a contagious amount of energy and joy that cannot help but make a believer out of you. Meanwhile Hailey Rae Smith's touching and intimate performance of Day By Day with some great direction by Janelle Phaneuf (who was featured in Ventura's Rubicon Theatre's 2009 production of Godspell) and infectious hugs were charming. Other nods go to a very pretty Courtney Bolen who gave a very heartfelt rendition of By My Side, Timothy Reese who (aside from a distracting microphone wire) reminded my friend of Frozen's Olaf and whose tenor voice during the gorgeous All Good Gifts had me wishing to see him in a Disney Channel movie. The featured star, Bennie Glasner, gave a solid performance as Jesus although Glasner's voice often got drowned out by the band and his performance was a bit too bland for my tastes but he definitely has a lovely tenor voice. David White's performance as John the Baptist/Judas was strong with a very moving On the Willows. Sadly the weakest number was the usually entertaining burlesque-style Turn Back, O Man. The company's eldest member, Amie Woolweber, gave it her best but her voice and humor fell flat at parts and the costume department did her no service by dressing her in ordinary garb without the typical flamboyance - a single boa does not make a "burlesque" style performance. Overall though the ensemble is strong, enchanting and full of great energy and rhythm.
|Hailey Rae Smith & Bennie Glasner. (c) Mike McCauley|
|(c) Mike McCauley.|
So if you live in the nearby area, a visit to support Conejo Players Theatre in Thousand Oaks is strongly encouraged. Not only will you be entertained - no matter your religious affiliations - but you will also be supporting a non-profit local community theatre and some fine young performers.
Location: Conejo Players Theatre, 351 S. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Dates: Now Through August 2, 2015 (Thurs, Fri, Sat @ 8pm; Sun @ 2pm)
Price (General Admission): $18 (Students/Seniors/Military) & $20 (Adults)
Box Office: In-Person (open 1 hr. before the show), Online or By Phone (805-495-3715)
Parent Advisory: PG (Family Friendly)
And know that after seeing the show you will be humming the infectious tunes. My favorite recording is the 1993 London Studio Cast recording featuring John Barrowman (We Beseech Thee), Ruthie Henshall (Turn Back, O Man) and Darren Day as Jesus.
Disclaimer: I was gifted my tickets for review purposes but all opinions are my own.