Updated 'Godspell' isn't clowning around onstage
As it embarks on its fifth production of "Godspell," Pittsburgh Musical Theater is taking a new approach.
Rejecting the original 1971 off-Broadway concept as outmoded, Pittsburgh Musical Theater founding director Ken Gargaro is directing the production that opens tonight to appeal to a new generation of theatergoers.
"In this post-9/11 era, clowning and flower children is not the way to turn religion on its ear," Gargaro says. "I think older folks get it. But kids 15 to 25 don't get the clowning."
Instead, Gargaro is setting his production in urban settings such as a back-street alley or in front of the distressed facade of the New York Stock Exchange.
He envisions the ensemble as a group of collegiate preppies on an assignment to figure out what's wrong with Western civilization.
"Jesus is this guy they think is cool. He gradually brings them into the community of believers. That's the pathway back from the crises of morality we just had," Gargaro says.
Appearing as Jesus is former Sewickley resident Peter Matthew Smith, who is a New York-based actor who has appeared on Broadway in the musicals "Cry-Baby," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Hairspray," "Mamma Mia!" and "Rent."
It's the fourth time Smith has played Jesus in "Godspell." He first played the part at Quaker Valley High School when he was a 15-year-old sophomore.
"Now I'm 31 and actually Jesus's age, roughly," Smith says.
He thinks repetition and maturing has changed his understanding of and approach to the role.
"The first few times, I was a young actor ... I didn't understand. I just knew a nice way of saying things," Smith says. "What Jesus was saying is that you need to hear every word. Now I'm a pro-active teacher, saying, 'Please listen, your life will be better.'"
This time, Smith adds, his Jesus is more human and a little more frustrated.
"When he gets mad, he gets really mad. I'm going to have more biting words a little earlier on. ... It's not going to be as easy from the beginning."
It's a role he looks forward to playing once again.
"It's great when you are speaking and know that every single person in the cast and in the audience is hanging on every word and learning those lessons again," he says.Additional Information:
Produced by : Pittsburgh Musical Theater
When : Through April 26. Performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays
Admission : $10-$39.50; $10-$20 for children
Where : Byham Theater, Downtown.
Details : 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.