Prepare ye the way of the power ballad. Egads Theatre Co. is Bible-belting some of the most spectacular showtunes of the 1970s with its revival of Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak's Godspell.
Godspell's spiritual sincerity may not have aged well, and finger-wagging lyrics such as There's gonna be a quiz at your ascension can give you hives even if you're not a skeptic. Still, you can't help but be charmed by a production and cast that tap into the hormonal adrenaline of a high school speech troupe at a state contest. Director Steven Eubank propels the energy level here to a fever pitch, and Tiffany Powell's choreography has an ecstatic spontaneity to match the cast members' personalities.
Egads' wild production design alone seems enough to justify this staging. The cross-pollination of Technicolor psychedelia with the musical's earnest innocence lands us somewhere between Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Richard Scarry's Busytown. Designers Alex Perry and Anderson Willms keep things portable with dressed-up pallets, spools and sawhorses, while Aaron Chvatal's costumes are confections of clashing fabric and color.
Godspell plays out in modular parables, allowing Egads plenty of room to experiment with storytelling styles as it brings the Gospel's greatest hits to life. There's clowning in commedia masks and preaching with Avenue Q-style puppets, and Jesus and Judas soft-shoe a snappy vaudeville duet. The company can seem at times frenetic and unfocused, working as it is with a grab bag of hammy accents and pop-culture references. And a few overbaked vocal runs detract from otherwise strong solo work.
Among the better moments are some slower ballads, including "Beautiful City," which allows us to catch our breath before Matthew A. King (as Jesus) steals it away again with his caramel-smooth singing. Ryan Hruza's soulful reprise of "Learn Your Lessons Well" is another highlight. Samn Wright portrays both John the Baptist and Judas with compassion, and ensemble player Christopher Carlson is controlled and precise.
On balance, you can put your faith in Egads this time. The show never dips or stalls, and full-company numbers shake the heavens with swelling harmonies and powerful hooks.