The British Theatre Academy do an incredible job of providing opportunities to young people, allowing them to perform in leading venues, alongside established and well-respected performers. The latest of these opportunities came in the form of a semi-staged concert version of Godspell at Cadogan Hall. The revenue raised will go towards future productions, including their upcoming summer residency at Southwark Playhouse.
Anyone that knows Godspell will also be aware of how wonderfully uplifting the rock score from Stephen Schwartz is, and it’s ideal for a large group of young performers bursting with energy and a passion for performing on the stage. The concert opened with ‘Tower of Babble’, which is often cut from modern stagings of the musical, the song worked perfectly here though, as it introduced us to the BTA students who went on to take on the lead roles, before being joined by a massive ensemble of students.
Luke Bayer, one of the established guest performers, joined the BTA students as Jesus, while Max Bowden took on John the Baptist. Both were wonderful in the roles, and it got me thinking that if there is ever to be a West End revival the pair would work marvelously together. Godspell is a series of Parables related to the Book of Matthew, and it has a prolific religious theme, which won’t be to everyone’s tastes. But, the various parables do give many of the students an opportunity to shine, often bringing in modern day references; mobile phones and even Donald Trump were featured.
Laura Baldwin joined the cast for an amazing performance of ‘Day by Day’, probably the most famous song from the musical. Act two was opened by Rachel John with ‘Turn Back, O Man’ in a gorgeously sultry performance. The final guest performer, Ramin Karimloo sang ‘Beautiful City’, a song that was added for the 1970’s film version but has been later incorporated in to many productions, and it’s not difficult to see why, it’s an incredibly tender ballad, and so fantastically performed by Karimloo.
With so much talent on stage, it was difficult to know where to look next. The student performers did themselves proud, in particular those taking on larger roles, (unfortunately, no programmes to work out who was who.) And although some students had larger parts, the entire ensemble performed with enthusiasm and confidence, there will certainly have been a few future West End stars on that stage. It was also inspiring to see such an even split of musical numbers between new and established performers.
Whether you love or hate this Marmite of musicals, British Theatre Academy’s staging of Godpsell has to be one of the most joyous that I have seen. Under the direction of Dean Johnson, and musical direction of James Taylor, the student performers and their more experienced guests, brought the story to life so that it was bursting with unbridled energy.