Brett Herriot at the Festivals

Godspell, Assembly Rooms, Music Hall, Venue 20 Review:

“masterful and utterly encapsulating ”

**** 4 Stars

It’s remarkable to know that it’s now over a half century since Stephen Schwartz seminal musical Godspell graced the stage for the first time. It would later spawn a movie version and several revivals but never truly took hold to its British audiences.

Based on the Gospel according to Matthew, the show is a series of parables brought to life using songs featuring lyrics from traditional hymns including a brief appearance from the passion of Christ. Godspell sits in the shadow of the more well known “Jesus Christ Superstar” but has a true heart all of its own and a gorgeous musical score from Schwartz that ensures Godspell is musical treat in its own right.

Godspell has often courted controversy due to its styling and reinvention and the Team at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland have added their own unique spin to the show as they bring their 10 strong cast drawn from their current student body to the festival for a full production of the show housed at the gorgeous Music Hall at the Assembly Room.

Director and Choreographer Alexandra Spencer-Jones has set the show in a post apocalyptic world in the ruins of a city (think We Will Rock You meets Godspell) and this is perfectly executed by Claire Halleran Set and Costume Design further aided by Robbie Butlers evocative lighting design. However for that being said, it does feel at times that there trying too hard to make the aesthetics work at the cost of the story of the show.

Performances are universally excellent with flawless vocals, harmonies and standout performances from each of the 10 cast. Special mention must go to Rhian Ferrigan as “Judas” her performance as a tortured soul is masterful and utterly encapsulating. The same is true Colum Findlay from the ensemble, his voice can achieve things that seem super human with a range tonality that would put many in the west end today to shame.  Its the combination of the entire cast that send shivers down the spine on more than one occasion in the show.

There are many joyful moments in the show but what stands out most are the moments of deep reflection and honesty that linger longest in the memory. “Beautiful City” and “On the Willows”   are the sparkling jewels of this production and worth the ticket price alone. Especially accompanied by Musical Directors, Eoin Corcoran and Gregory P Franz tight five piece live band.

RCS’s Godspell is a strong, beautifully presented and loaded with outstanding performances and makes the effort of attending the 10am curtain up so worth it. So grab those tickets before the run ends.

Godspell, Assembly Rooms, Music Hall, Venue 20 for tickets go to: Godspell | Musicals and Opera | Edinburgh Festival Fringe (edfringe.com) or direct from the venue.

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