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Critic's Choice: ‘Godspell’ back in an uplifting revival

The Broadway revival of “Godspell” is making a splash with its Midwest premiere at Marriott Theatre. Though this version of the popular religious-centered musical includes some modest tweaks and updates, there’s no mistaking the show’s 1970-era roots.

It’s in good hands under the direction of Matt Raftery, who also manages its well-coordinated choreography that includes precision-perfect numbers performed with golden hula hoops and pale blue scarves.

Ryan T. Nelson provides musical direction for the endearing show which was conceived by John-Michael Tebelak with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.

Contemporary references to cellphones, Reebok shoes and Obamacare aside, “Godspell” plucks its material from the New Testament.

An energetic 10-member cast – onstage the whole time – uses song and dance to bring to life parables from the Bible: the story of rich man, the sower of seeds, Lazarus, the Good Samaritan, prodigal son and woman at the well. It also touches on the Beatitudes, Jesus’s Last Supper and betrayal; Garden of Gethsemane and, at the end, the crucifixion.

Act I opens with a powerful number, “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” led by Devin DeSantis as John the Baptist (he also appears as Judas Iscariot, the betrayer). Later, in a lighter moment, Jesus (Brian Bohr) preaches about the fate of mankind: how men, depending on their behavior in life, will be separated as a shepherd separates his flock into sheep and goats, with one group entering heaven and the other suffering eternal damnation.

DeSantis and Bohr, the two leads, bring a wealth of talent and theatrical experience and are ably supported by a personable, exuberant troupe. It includes Christine Mild, a Marriott Theatre veteran whose vocal range is on display with the company in “Learn Your Lessons Well”; Elizabeth Lanza, Lillie Cummings; Nate Lewellyn, Eliza Palasz, Samantha Pauly, Zachary Piser and Tom Vendafreddo.

The rock-and-gospel score includes classic hits such as “Day by Day,” “By My Side,” “Light of the World” and “Turn Back, O Man.”