DIABLO VALLEY COLLEGE DEPARTMENT OF DRAMA BRINGS THE CLASSIC 2012 VERSION OF 'GODSPELL'
TO THEIR INTIMATE ARENA THEATRE
A college troupe of high spirited actors make GODSPELL an Iconic musical from the 70’s perfect for millennials. DVC Drama Dept presents the classic musical GODSPELL 2012 revised version in their Arena stage through May 20th. The original book by John Michael Tebelak would encourage current versions of his show to reflect the times and music and headlines of 2018. Of course in this production the “trump years” is named dropped as well as Oakland and the DVC campus.
Director and DVC Theatre Department Chair Lisa Drummond accomplishes that and more - with a clever circus theme set in the round that includes a colorful set with ramps ladders and ropes for the cast to perform with. Drummond says about the mood of our current times “ GODSPELL is the perfect show for audiences today. In a time when it feels as if the world is getting more and more chaotic, GODSPELL reminds us that we are all in it together. It is up to us to carry forth the messages of kindness, compassion, and love.”
With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz who went on to write Pippin and Wicked, the production opened off Broadway in 1971 where it ran for a miraculous 2000 + performances, and has become a staple of college, high school and community theatre as well as numerous professional mountings including the most recent 2012 Broadway revival. But this 2018 romp with the son of God and his gang remains faithful to the original heart of the musical. Drummond points out this production of GODSPELL is the first musical performed in the DVC 127 seat Arena in over 40 years. She hopes to do more musicals in this smaller venue in the future.
The show is light-hearted and fun and is dependent on the cast’s commitment to conveying the message of the music and bible themes. This talented company of 21 actors all sing well, tumble, dance and show their passion for this romp for a man called Jesus. 47 years of “Day by Day” is based on the Gospel of Matthew, the show is a mixture of Scripture parables as told by Jesus loosely tied together with songs and dance. The great news about this DVC production is the exceptionally well sung score under the musical direction of Enrico Banson and his stellar Sgt Drummonds Happy Hearts Club Band with the keen Caleb Phair, Jerica Banson and Sean Willett. They sit atop of the circus rink as the cast of performers are strutting slick dances under choreographer Amanda Boyan creative rousing jazz/hip-hop numbers. With assistant choreographer Ronald James the ensemble creates the energy and excitement of a group of circus performers who want to please their ringmaster.
The terrific Scottie Tsubota is cast as Jesus who first shows up in the rink in just his underwear and soon transforms into a colorful son of God - He has a stunning voice and his many solo’s including “Save The People” are a highlight of his performance. He keeps the 2 hours moving and his cast energized, his none stop smile is a delight on stage. Jesus radiates compassion and a desire to guide his followers to a better way of living. He is a pure soul embodying the simplicity of a life led by love. Tsubota has a rich voice and sings the aching and gorgeous “Beautiful City” that highlights his passion as Jesus.
His sidekick John The Baptist is also a charmer played by the impressive Isaiah Collins who belts out the opening number “Prepare Ye” - as the company joins in. A production with such a solid group of performers makes it hard to identify standouts, but that is the best kind of problem to have in a sharp musical with all this color. The ensemble company also includes the energized Toniea Hawkins, Ethan Dale, Evelyn McCollum, Victor Meneses, and Rachel Whalen. They all bring their own back stories to the cast and add to the colorful love event this musical tends to be.
Other cast members filled in with the other songs as needed to highlight the bible text. Kayla Wilder has a compelling presence: her amazing vocals in the important number, “Bless the Lord” bring the first act some awesome energy. The cast uses their real names but each has a specific character to create. The exceptional Angelo Nipay steals the show with his solo “All Good Gifts” with the company. Nipay is one of the highlights of this talented company, he is a full throttle voice and high energy on stage and I hope to see his career blossom. The fantastic Anastasia Nieuwsma sings the iconic “Day by Day” and she shows off her wonderful voice, along with Sabrina Gottlieb who is vibrant in “Learn Your Lesson Well”. The powerhouse Christian McCooey closes out the first act with the inspirational song “Light of The World”. McCooey has a booming commanding voice that filled the circus tent, as Tsubota tells the audience it's time for a short intermission.
Act II, Jesus’ passion takes a turn, and Tsubota’s performance is fully realized and polished. Judas played by the accomplished Tyler Page is not necessarily the "Bad Guy", but the bible character who takes the dark path. Tyler has a strong presents on stage in his riveting solo “On The Willows”. Tyler wears his brilliant red coat costume with class and swagger and his performance is memorable. The second act also shines with the intriging Jessica Montez is all sex and sass in “Turn Back, O Man.” Her likable voice teases the audience and underscores her ability to take complete command of the stage, and charm the sold out audience. The skilled Alyssa Fredzess sings “By My Side” one of the bible story that brings the series of parables that emphasize Jesus’ life. Tsubota shows off his splendid talent in his final solos “Alas For You” and “Beautiful City” as he prepared his company for his descent into darkness.
Director Drummond keeps the company busy and used the entire round space to send the actors throughout the entire arena theatre. The clever circus props designed and crafted by Harley Bates include magic hand gimmicks for Jesus, beach balls that bounce off the audience seats and plenty of button pins and flowers to add on the players costumes. The circus colorful set design by Carrie Mullen that includes a ladder, a circus tent, balance ring trapeze are highlighted by a bright painted rainbow circus rink. The set complements Tara Maginnis eye popping costume design along with her assistant Morgan Gassman keeping each cast member layered in bright colors. Scott Heiden light design uses the entire space to create that circus feel and catch many of the cast using the side isles and upper areas of the round space. Assistant light designer Thomas Lautenberger help to create the arena effect, there is so much color and love created for this production.
The accomplished sound designer Josh Price worked the round space not to overwhelm the mix, since this was the first musical performed in the space since audio tech has improved the past 40 years. Stage Manager Matt Quarless and his team Harley Bates, Claudia Cortez and Harried Xuan have five stage entrances to keep the energetic cast on que, and many large props that need to move through the rink smoothly. Two assistant student directors Lesley Ramirez, and Wallace Yen kept the 21 member cast moving on and off stage with ease, and help to keep each ensemble member create their own separate story. The comical Ethan Dale is proof that this intense group of DVC students are on course a 100% with each of their performances. Young Dale is always busy on stage with is hand puppet yet not upstaging the ringmaster.
I have been a supporter of the DVC Drama program over the years, watching all the bay area talent pour out of Lisa Drummond’s theatre program. Including the amazing Kevin Redrico, Daniel Rubio, Burton Thomas, Sage Georgevitch-Castellanos, Aubri no'eau Kahalekulu, Zachariah Mohammed, Kamren Mahaney, Jave Hernandez and so many other names that are now local favorites on Bay Area Stages and beyond. I don’t review many College or University productions but I do want to encourage my readers to take a drive to the DVC campus in Pleasant Hill to see one of their main season productions. This love fest production of GODSPELL 2012 is completely sold out. They tell me you can get on a waitlist early in the day, call the box office for more details. Next up at DVC Drama - the 2018 fall season will open with FOOTLOOSE Oct 19th. In the meantime do your best to get on the GODSPELL wait list - they have one more weekend of shows.
DVC Department of Drama Presents
Book by John-Michael Tebelak,
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Directed by Lisa Drummond
Music Director Enrico Banson
Closes May 20th
DVC Theatre Dept
Diablo Valley College Performance Center
321 Golf Club Rd, Pleasant Hill, California 94523
Running time 2 hours with an intermission
Tickets 21.00 - 11.00 Waitlist at door.
Photo’s by DVC drama student Lesly Ramirez