A Jesus musical, reworked
Teen Actorsingers promise a burnt car but no clowns in the “new” Godspell
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
Brandon Mallard admits that this summer’s musical selection was not well received by his adolescent actors.
“They expected it to be like the old Godspell” which every school, church and community group has done, Mallard said. But they changed their minds. “It’s a very different Godspell than people are used to.”
Teen Actorsingers, who Mallard also directed in Fame last summer, are using new orchestration by Alex Lacamoire from the 2001 national revival tour and 2000 off-Broadway revival.
It’s updated with techno and rock sounds, a “very Rent-ish, urban feeling,” Mallard said. And no, bless the Lord, there are no clowns or hippies.
“Each of the songs has a very distinct decade feel,” Mallard said. “Day by Day” sounds “90s Lilith Fair” and “Bless the Lord My Soul” is “60s mod,” he said.
For their post-apocalyptic set the company “built a complete city and then destroyed it,” Mallard said. The sound of a bomb opens the performance, and a billboard with digital projections and a burnt car complete the stage effects.
“It will be a nice bonding experience for the cast,” Mallard said about the scheduled car-burning. Perhaps it rounds out the beach party and Canobie Lake trip producer Howard Levine mentioned.
Jesus is crucified on a cross made from TVs instead of a fence. Mallard pulled that concept from the revival’s set, a wall of TVs. The cast comes out in “fierce” urban wear before changing into decade-appropriate costumes when the old version had the cast putting on clown make-up.
“The show focuses on building of community and rebuilding of community,” and points out “the corruption of modern society,” Mallard said. It’s heavy on symbolism. Characters appear as American Idols or Harry Potter as the play tries to show “loss of spirituality and religion to modern-day media.”
Levine acknowledged that there are great teen companies in the area but Actorsingers get edgy.
“Sometimes some of the older folks shudder a bit,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll be the first ones to do Rent when it comes out.”
Mallard, who’s also behind Caberet de Boheme, is only 23.
“To me acting is all about being vulnerable and feeling emotion,” he said. Youth are more willing to be vulnerable, but don’t have a depth of emotional experience to draw on. “A lot of times the most intense experience is that they failed that test, or a friend talked about them behind their back,” he said. But working with adults or teens, “I’m a teacher first, I love helping them grow.”
“You won’t believe the time and effort they are putting into this,” Levine gushed.
More than 60 kids auditioned, and the 24-member cast hails from Nashua, New Boston, Hollis, Hampstead and Manchester. They’ve rehearsed four nights per week for two months, to accommodate vacation schedules. However, they perform only one weekend this summer rather than two because the Amato Center seats more than their usual 14 Court St. Theatre in Nashua.