Godspell: Preaching the Gospel through song, dance and confetti

Ah “Godspell,” you crazy minx, you, with your rag tag group of free spirits rocking out with Jesus.

Hailing from the early 1970s, which saw an uptick in rock musicals based on Bible stories, “Godspell” features a cast of twenty-somethings reenacting parables primarily taken from the Gospel of Matthew. In terms of controversy, it’s definitely more “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” than “Jesus Christ Superstar.” That is to say, more fashion, less “Passion.”

The Provision Theater’s production is dutifully colorful and friendly as the cast teaches the lessons of Jesus through skits, songs and puppet shows. It does border on manic, though, in its attempts to feel fresh. Jokes about Facebook and the stimulus package try too hard and fall flat, as does Jesus’ “Lifeguard on Duty” t-shirt, and the acting at times is too riotous and cutesy. But I did laugh at the story of the Good Samaritan, in which a Kermit the Frog puppet stars as the titular do-gooder. Nice touch.

The show is at its best during its quieter moments, specifically during some of the solos; I particularly liked Amy Steele’s lovely rendition of “Day by Day.” Other standout vocal performances include Jennifer Oakley, Tiffany Cox and Syler Thomas, who plays Jesus.

With its messages of peace, love and understanding, and an exuberant, if not always pitch-perfect cast, this is a good show for a family afternoon in the city.

Godspell is directed by Tim Gregory and stars Syler Thomas as Jesus, Justin Berkobien as John the Baptist, and ensemble members Tiffany Yvonne Cox, Maxwell Burnham, Greg Foster, Sarah Grant, Frederick Harris, Richelle Meiss, Kevin O’Brien, Jennifer Oakley, Amy Steele and Samantha Driver. The play is a little over two hours long, with one 15-minute intermission, and will run through September 26 at Chicago’s Provision Theater. For tickets, call 866.811.4111 or visit www.provisiontheater.org.