MFT’s ‘Godspell’ simply spellbinding

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 12, 2001

Minnesota Festival Theatre is ending its 18th season with a bang.

Thursday, July 12, 2001

Minnesota Festival Theatre is ending its 18th season with a bang.

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&uot;Godspell,&uot; the final production of the season, opened Wednesday night to a standing ovation. People who may have missed the other two shows won’t want to miss this one. It not only has all those wonderful songs like &uot;Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,&uot; &uot;Day by Day,&uot; &uot;All for the Best,&uot; &uot;Turn Back O Man&uot; and &uot;All Good Gifts,&uot; but also a beautiful sound, moving performances and plenty of small, fun moments as well.

&uot;Godspell&uot; is a depiction of the book of St. Matthew through the retelling of the parables in scripture and song. Director Terry Lynn Carlson has chosen a carnival theme for MFT’s production.

The play opens with a prologue/Tower of Babble production, where some of the world’s great thinkers -&160;Socrates, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Leonardo daVinci and Jean-Paul Sartre -&160;try to ring the carnival’s strong man’s bell.

But suddenly, John the Baptist (Jon Petersen) calls and a big, beautiful sound erupts from the chorus. From that moment, the production has the audience’s attention and doesn’t let go.

Enter Jesus (Dieter Bierbrauer). Bierbrauer’s voice is wonderful. And he possesses a certain type of magnetism or charisma that one would only image someone like Jesus may have. He even does a couple slight-of-hand tricks.

He tells many of the parables from the Bible and the cast and chorus work to act them out. There are stories like Lazarus and the rich man, the woman caught in the act of adultery and the people being told that he or she without sin should cast the first stone, the prodigal son, the good Samaritan and more. Cast members have added so many little touches that there’s always something going on.

The first act is extremely happy and upbeat. There is water splashing around, some audience members get their faces painted. Lots of singing and dancing go on. During the second act, however, when the cast must put its faith to the test, it’s sometimes a different story. At times, the audience could hear a pin drop. Bring a tissue or two for the song &uot;On the Willows&uot; near the end.

Enough cannot be said about this cast. Petersen undergoes a transformation from his first role of the season in &uot;The Nerd.&uot; (However, there may be a glimmer of that during the telling of the prodigal son.) He lends his wonderful voice as John the Baptist, then later in the show as Judas.

Other cast members are Albert Lea’s Dana Ford (who holds his own among the professionals), Charles Fraser, Vanessa Gamble, Robert Gardner, Stacey Lindell, Sara Rene Martin, Nicole Stefonek and Sandra Struthers. This is an extremely talented, energetic group.

In the chorus are Erin Budd, Krista Carlson, David Dahlquist, Gordy Handeland, Sue Jorgensen, Noah Langseth, Bria Lindsay, John Mattson, Brian McKenney, Juliana Peterson, Gerrit Plantage and Lisa Sturtz. This dedicated group is on stage for the entire production. They play the people who come to see the carnival. Their wonderful voices serve to round out the awesome sound.

Other key people in &uot;Godspell&uot; are of course choreographer Elizabeth Desotelle, who has everyone energetically dancing; set designer Rick Polenek with a colorful, versatile, carnival-like set; Barb Portinga and LisaJayne Smith who have done some colorful costuming; Mike Wangen on lighting design; and Dana and Dan Ford on sound design.

In a musical like this, it would be remiss not to mention the talented musicians: Bob Moore, Ryan Smith, Christopher McGuire and Mark Wade. Chorus members McKenney, Plantage and Carlson pull out their instruments to accompany different numbers in the production as well.

The play runs about two hours, 15 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission. It’s suitable for the whole family. Those who saw a production or movie as a young person will enjoy it all over again, and those seeing it for the first time will love it.

&uot;Godspell&uot; continues tonight through Sunday, and again July 17-21, and 24-27 at the Albert Lea Civic Theatre. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. A matinee is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, July 28. Call the box office at 377-4371. Box office hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and one hour before the performance, and 4 p.m. to curtain on Saturdays and Sundays of performances.

Farmland Foods employees can attend performances for half price.