MONMOUTH — The current Monmouth Community Players production of “Godspell” is filled with inventive sight gags, nearly nonstop nonsense and lots of good music. It’s capped off with an exceptionally powerful conclusion.

This show is a learning and teaching experience in every sense of that phrase. It presents the messages of the parables told by Jesus in rapid succession, and the stories are true to Biblical text. The show delivers a free-wheeling and light-hearted treatment of townspeople who put some preposterous interpretations on the parables’ meanings.
With an opening tableau featuring quick comments by philosophers, authors, scientists and other historical figures, the scene changes to Jerusalem. Right from the beginning, it’s clear that Jesus faces major challenges in getting the meaning of his parables across.
That’s the underlying challenge to the audience. Like the people in the time of Jesus, the audience learns to listen and understand.
Director Penny Jaskalen oversees a large cast of all ages and brings ultimate order to a potential jumble of action and words.
Jeffrey Fairfield gives an excellent portray of Jesus. In look and manner, the role is played with appropriate respect in the midst of some outlandish actions and reactions by the befuddled citizens.
Fairfield has performed in numerous musicals and was previously in MCP’s “Fiddler on the Roof” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
Troy Bisson skillfully handles two key roles. In an early scene, he appears as John the Baptist, and near the close of the play he is seen as Judas. Bisson manages to impart dramatic honesty within the unconventional structure of “Godspell.”
A sophomore at Leavitt Area High School, Bisson has numerous theater credits over the past seven years.
“Beautiful City,” sung by Fairfield is a highlight of the musical numbers. “All for the Best” is a fine duet by Fairfield and Bisson.
Others in the play are citizens. Their rapid and repeated misunderstandings of the seemingly radical teachings of Jesus are central to the pioneering rock opera style of “Godspell.”
It’s the songs of “Godspell” that single out several actors for special mention.
Josie French gives a beautiful gospel-tinged rendition of “O, Bless the Lord, My Soul.” She is a community theater veteran with credits going back to elementary school. They include Jack’s mother in “Into the Woods” and Crystal in “Little Shop of Horrors,” both on the Cumston Hall stage with Monmouth Community Players.
Coleen Mahan, music director, plays a citizen whose inability to grasp the meaning of the parables takes on special meaning with a couple of simple movements. She also sings “All Good Gifts” and joins Emily Trefethen and Karen Lipovsky for “By My Side.”
Lipovsky’s bouncy comedic performance is just right for her song, “Learn Your Lessons Well.”
Trefethen also ably sings “Turn Back, O Man,” a song depicting a temptation of Jesus.
Mahan was director of the Community Little Theatre production of “Godspell” about eight years ago.
Andy Tolman, an older member of the cast and another MCP veteran, displays good comic talent.
At the younger end of the cast is Emma Vierling, eighth-grader at Monmouth Middle School. She sings a lovely solo introduction for “Day By Day,” and is joined by the company for that most familiar song of the play.
It’s a pleasure to watch 9-year-old Kyla Wallace, 9, who has her parts in the songs and dances down pat, and 8-year-old Jenna Roy, display the same community theatre talent.
The rollicking pun-filled nature of the show turns solemn with an emotionally-effective depiction of the last supper.
Bisson’s rendition of “On the Willows” is excellent, with rock band accompaniment featuring Michael French’s outstanding electric guitar playing. The crucifixion is performed stylistically, with the company carrying Jesus to the tomb.
Remaining performances of “Godspell” are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 11 and 12, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 13.
For tickets, call 838-3006 or go online to Shows are at Cumston Hall, 796 Main St., Monmouth.

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