Superstar David Essex took a trip down memory lane last night when he returned to the musical Godspell for a special five-star charity performance.
The cast of Thriller took the night off from the Lyric Theatre, in Shaftesbury Avenue, to let in a hugely talented ensemble from some of the country’s top musicals to stage Godspell, The Broadway Revival in Concert.
Essex, who made his debut 43 years-ago in the original production, walked out to introduce the performance and he received ecstatic applause from the sell-out audience.
He told fans: “This is a trip down memory lane for me and other members of the original cast, including Marti Webb and Gay Soper, who are here tonight.
“Godspell was quite an extraordinary show to do. I remember when I got the part, me, a docker’s son, set to play Jesus.
“I said to the producers: ‘Shall I grow a beard?’ ‘No,’ they said. ‘He’s a red nosed clown’.
“We had protesters outside on the night we opened at The Roundhouse, Camden, because no-one in the West End wanted it – until we opened and then there were three offers!
“It’s a great pleasure being here tonight. I haven’t seen some of the original cast for more than 40 years.”
Producer and the show’s musical director Russell Scott has spent three years planning a revival of the show and last night’s sensational performance supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“Godspell hasn’t been in the West End for more than 40 years – why?” Scott asked.
With a self-professed “gutsy, rocky and uplifting score” Godspell was led by Ghost lead, Stewart Clarke as Jesus and X Factor star Andy Abraham playing both Judas and John The Baptist.
There were knockout performances from Rob Houchen (Les Mis), stage and screen star Zoe Tyler, Fresh Meat’s Turlough Convery, Katie Payne, Jennifer Potts, Jason Broderick, Laura Darton, and Shekinah McFarlane – plus a huge company of backing singers.
John-Michael Tebelak’s story (with music and lyrics from Stephen Schwartz) is a series of parables from the gospels and originated on Broadway before crossing the pond in 1971.
Last night’s show was a very modern affair featuring mobile phones, selfies, Gollum, Pictionary and impersonations of a Meerkat and Gordon Ramsay.
The Clarke/Abraham vaudeville turn for All For The Best proved a big hit as well as Houchen’s powerful rendition of All Good Gifts.
The night ended with a Day By Day finale, a well-deserved standing ovation and an appearance on stage by some of the original cast.
A tremendous show by the industry’s rising stars.