New inside venue expands Theatre in the Park season

By Bob Evans

For their initial offering in the newly created event space, the former King Louie Ice rink/bowling alley on Metcalf, Theatre in the Park presents “Godspell” a 1960s era musical based on the texts from The Bible, specifically the Book of Matthew, told by a band of hippies and radicals.

The musical, which spanned the top 40 hit, “Day by Day” presents a non-challenging look into the ideas set forth by Jesus and follows his ministry through his crucifixion in a simple, touching presentation with laughs, song, dance, and sincerity. The show gives an uplifting look at the times of Jesus and his teachings.

“This is the inaugural indoor season for TTIP with all productions being held in the Black Box theatre of the new Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf, in Overland Park, Kansas,” a spokesman said.

“‘Godspell’ is a beautifully crafted story that transcends Christianity, Bob Stewart, director, said. “It reminds us that being kind and non-judgmental can be more powerful than threats and violence and that when you truly believe in the greater good, your sacrifices will never be in vain.”

For this production, Stewart chose an updated version of the dusty musical with modern references and chose to perform in the round, a first for Theatre in the Park. Performing in the round creates the atmosphere that the audience feels more connected with the performers and feel more a part of the overall production. And, then, the audience participation portion also beings the audience inside the production.

The round concept presents new challenges to the cast and compels them to remain in almost constant motion to play to all angles at all times. With added motion, choreographer Mindy Moritz constructed strong choreography and good steps to keep the show simple, yet constantly moving.

Opening night brought out a small audience for the initial production and provided the cast the well-needed larger in the round audience for their performance. The show works, but not as smoothly as the original production. Some of the charm faded with the updated material. The music remains strong, yet this version just seemed flat upon opening. As the cast worked through Act I, the energy picked up several times, but did not sustain its momentum. Act II refocused the group and the confidence level seemed energized. Truly, the cast needed that shot of adrenaline to get pacing.

The overall strength of the production, the vocal performances, stand out. Each performer displayed beautiful voices and seemed perfectly tuned to the songs they performed. Outstanding solo performances were jaw-dropping in several cases. From a young cast that’s full of newbies to the KC theater scene, “Godspell” signaled their arrival on the KC stage. They are ready for more and continues success. “Godspell” is an ensemble piece, but it requires strong individual performances to work and hold the piece together. TTIP found the thread to knit this into a tight piece.

“Godspell” cast, as listed by Theatre in the Park: Jesus, Kyle Hyde; Judas – Pete Kuhn; Nick – Weston Thomas; George – Ken Koval; Telly – Matt Robison; Anne Marie –Pancha Brown; Uzo – Lindsay Chandler; Celisse – Erica Punch; Morgan – Sydney Normile; Lindsay – Lindsay Day.

Performances continue at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 7, 12, 13, 14, 20 and 21. Matinee performances at 2 p.m. will take place on Oct. 14, 15, 21 and 22. The Oct. 21, the 7:30 p.m. show will be an American Sign Language interpreted performance. This show is rated PG, according to TTIP.

TTIP continues its indoor season with two more musicals through the end of 2017, “The Happy Elf,” up next, and then, “Legally Blonde, Jr before its Stars Gala on New Year’s Eve.

Tags: Theatre in the Park, “Godspell”, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

Images courtesy of Theatre in the Park, Bob Evans and Bob Compton Photography & Theatre in the Park

Author: Bob Evans

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