Cadogan Hall, London
Guest reviewer: Amy Toledano
The British Theatre Academy presents this colourful, semi-staged concert version of Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell. Providing a space for young performers to gain real theatrical experience, this particular version is a lovely ode to a well-loved piece of music theatre.
Working alongside a group of West End stars, this ensemble of young actors are energetic and loads of fun. The talent is undeniable, as they exude energy from start to finish. It is directed by Dean Johnson with choreography from Thea Butler, and there is never a dull moment of the stage. The creative team use clever ways of staging to ensure every student has a chance to shine.
The original concept by John-Michael Tebelak follows Jesus as he retells his story as it is written in the gospel of Matthew. The stories are represented in original and entertaining ways, always surprising the audience and updating the piece with contemporary references that keep it young and fresh. From chat shows, to charades, dance-offs to rap, this show is inclusive and progressive in its thinking. There is a particularly lovely moment during ‘Day By Day’ that is sung by Laura Baldwin, where the choreography incorporates sign language, and a young student weaves in and out of her peers making sure everyone is included in the songs message.
Leading the disciples as Jesus is Everybody Is Talking About Jamie star Luke Bayer, a lovely warm presence on stage throughout. Equally great is EastEnders actor Max Bowden, along with some uplifting moments from Baldwin (Waitress), Rachel John (Hamilton) and Ramin Karimloo (Phantom Of The Opera, Les Miserables).
The young cast shines with the support and guidance of these West End performers, and highlights the importance of developing and encouraging creative passions in young people. The experimental and bold ideas of the piece is also a credit to the director, and provides a brilliant learning experience for the young actors. Sharing the spotlight quite evenly, there is definitely a focus on giving the British Theatre Academy students the limelight, and the confidence and excitement that comes from them is something of utter joy.