LOS ANGELES -- A new version of the musical Godspell, which sets the show squarely in the late 90's, will open Feb. 20 at the Excalibur Theatre in Studio City for a two-month run.
Adapted and directed by Gary B. Lamb and William Reilly, with music and new lyrics by Stephen ("The Prince of Egypt") Schwartz, the production is presented by La Petite Musicale, which in recent seasons has scored locally with both original material (a musical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and revivals (The Boys From Syracuse).
Godspell, first produced in 1971, was roughly based on the Book of Mathew and had hippies and flower children as its main characters. In the Excalibur version they are replaced by the downtown street people of Los Angeles, reflecting the urban realities of our age. The cast is now multi racial and multi-ethnic, with the African-American performer Rodney Hicks in the central role of The Prophet.
Hicks, who was in the original Broadway cast of Rent, plays The Prophet as more of a street minister than a deity.
"The messages are universal," said Lamb. "The task that this man takes on seems impossible, but he somehow brings a little hope and brotherhood to the raw, untamed side of society...The songs remain the same, how they are attacked and what relevance they have to the characters have changed. The production is full of suprises and Hicks is one of them." The cast also includes Curt Bonnem, Judy Bosco, Wil Bowers, Luke Darnell, Marita de Lara, Seth Hampton, Jane Longenecker, Suzanne Nichols, Paula Kay Perry, Jill Ritchie, Meghan Truesdell and Jeff Watson.
Godspell is performed at the Excalibur Theatre, 12655 Ventura Blvd., in Studio City. Call (818) 980-2994.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent