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Marriott’s ‘Godspell’ goes contemporary...

The hippies of the 1971 musical revue "Godspell" have been replaced with pretty, peppy contemporary Christians at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. It's for the Chicago-area premiere of the 2011 revised Broadway version of "Godspell," filled with New Testament parables and praise-filled pop songs.

...True, the Christian teachings drawn from the Gospels and adapted for "Godspell" by the late author John-Michael Tebelak are always relevant, no matter the era. Also, the catchy pop songs show what a huge debt contemporary Christian rock owes to "Godspell" songwriter Stephen Schwartz, who would go on to score other hit shows like "Pippin" and "Wicked."

...director/choreographer Matt Raftery has fashioned a continuously entertaining revue for Marriott Theatre that should please both newcomers as well as longtime fans who know all the lyrics to songs like "Day by Day" or "Beautiful City."

The first impression you get entering the theater is that you've wandered into the nursery playroom of a Christian mega church. Vibrant handmade art projects circle the multilevel stage of set designer Thomas M. Ryan, while lighting designer Jesse Klug applies every crayon color imaginable to illuminate the stories.

The young cast of 10 is supremely talented as they sing and dance up a storm...they're all tirelessly dedicated to the material and full of joy.

Some standouts include Tom Vendafreddo for his highflying voice and onstage electronic keyboard jamming, while Devin DeSantis brings gravitas to his dual roles of John the Baptist and Judas Iscariot.

As Jesus, Brian Bohr commands authority...