Godspell aims to entertain, not preach

Tom Parrish who plays The Teacher, with the cast of Phoenix's production of Godspell. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Tom Parrish who plays The Teacher, with the cast of Phoenix's production of Godspell. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

The title might seem like a giveaway, but you need not be a practising Christian to take something away from Phoenix Theatre’s production of Godspell.

The Broadway hit musical is an explosion of colour, based on the Gospel of Matthew and with a message of love and tolerance.

An early work of Wicked! writer Stephen Schwartz, Godspell may have a religious spine but Phoenix’s artistic director Steen said it was not solely for church-goers – and he should know.

“I’m directing it and I’m not Christian,” he laughed.

“It uses gospel, but it doesn’t preach. You don’t have to be religious to watch it, just someone who accepts and loves others.”

He admits it is “a bit of a hippie fest” – indeed, his “no black costume” policy makes the room pop like a flower power love-in – but Steen said such eye-catching shows are essential in ensuring the Phoenix’s survival.

Amid ongoing speculation around the venue’s future, he assured theatre-lovers the Phoenix’s doors were still open, and would remain so as long as possible.

“Our smaller, darker, boutique shows like Equus have a limited audience, so the big shows like this help fund the more experimental work we do,” Steen said,

“That’s how we decided to operate. Equus was challenging, edgy, confrontational theatre, and the only way we can afford to do those shows is by doing shows like this, at the opposite end of the spectrum, to even it out.”

Godspell opens on May 9, playing on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights until May 24.

See phoenixtheatre.net.au for more information.

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