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"Godspell" delights with favorite old songs and updated references

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"Godspell"

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You’d be forgiven if after seeing “Godspell” now at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire through Aug. 10, 2014, you wanted to go back to the October 1971 off-Broadway opening production to see how it was originally done during a hippie era. That version has been in playhouses around the country until a revival ran on Broadway from October 2011 to June 2012. Now, we're seeing an updated production.

The Marriott version is a delight. Matt Rafferty’s clever choreography with hula hoops and other fabrics and his direction of a cast of young voices is joyous and energizing.

His updated take on John-Michael Tebelak’s original concept adds cell phones, tweets and references to Justin Bieber, selfies and Obamacare as the cast presents Old Testament teachings exemplified by parables from the Gospel of Matthew.

The current interpretation is fun but some more definitive character identification and development would have been helpful. Brian Bohr is obviously Jesus and does a startling rendition of “Alas for You.” But you don’t get it that Devin DeSantis plays John and Judas as he switches roles until the second act.

However, the show entrances with Stephen Schwartz’s music and lyrics of “Prepare Ye” “Day by Day, “All Good Gifts” and “Learn Your Lessons Well” under the fine music direction of Ryan T. Nelson.

After an unusual and interesting, dissonance cell phone opening piece, the first act’s numbers are uplifting. The second act is more emotional. But both are well-staged.

Talented Tom Vendafreddo whom audiences may remember from Chicago Shakespeare, Paramount and Writers Theatres’ productions, does a wonderful rendition of “All Good Gifts.” He also entertains at an onstage keyboard. Indeed, several cast members play instruments on stage, reminiscent of young adult church and temple gatherings.

It's all encased in Thomas M. Ryan’s set design which brings you back to the peace and love hippie era with their colors and symbols.

Details: “Godspell,” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL, 60069, now through Aug. 10, 2014. For tickets and more information call 847-634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre.

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