Shtick meets solemnity in the 1971 musical Godspell, conceived by John-Michael Tebelak, with a durably catchy score by Stephen Schwartz.
It’s a series of New Testament parables as rendered by a troupe wearing colorful vintage castoffs and indulging in comedy gags and vaudeville turns that originally served to bring the apostles down to a clowny, less reverential level and make them more accessible to the youth culture.
But it’s harder to be subversive nowadays.
So it’s not enough that in the new Broadway revival directed by Daniel Goldstein, the hardworking performers play instruments, do rap numbers, invite an audience member up for Charades, and turn “Day by Day” into a disco line dance complete with clap-along.
To add more juice, jokes have been added about Donald Trump, Steve Jobs, Lindsay Lohan, Wicked, and Facebook, as the show brings Christ into the social networking/iPad era.
The go-for-broke giggles mercifully adorn a book that underlines the positive messages from the Good Book — lessons about humility, love, brotherhood, and conquering evil.
(There’s nothing in there about how gays shouldn’t get married.)
And the more ebullient numbers really pop, like a rousing “Bless the Lord” and a spirited “We Beseech Thee,” done with mini trampolines.
But the show’s switches from goofy to glum are as awkward as ever, and while the Jesus (the surfer-dude-looking Hunter Parrish from Weeds) has a silkily beautiful voice, he can’t make the dramatic parts as profound as they want to be.
What’s more, just like in the original Jesus Christ Superstar, it’s a black man as the backstabbing Judas!
Still, the audience claps along, even when they’re not told to.
They can’t help it; this is the most feel-good musical ever done about the crucifixion.
(Oops. Sorry. I’m being irreverent.)