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|Eric Kunze Muny St. Louis Godspell 2009|
Seeing Eric in Godspell was completely different for me from any of the other shows he has been in. His performance combined a little of the humor of Joseph and the pathos of Jesus Christ Superstar. He was on stage the whole time, like in Evita. And rather than being a starring vehicle it was more of an ensemble piece, like Les Miz. But there the similarities end. His multi-faceted character was alternately playful, bouyant, enthusiastic ("I wanna get washed up!) to, in the second act, angry, sad and resigned.
For the first time I was able to witness Eric's dancing abilities. He's always been light on his feet. In "Whistle Down the Wind" he effortlessly scampered up and down the ladder in the barn. In "Evita" we saw glimpses of his dancing potential. In "Godspell" he leapt up onto the rungs of the merry-go-round, precariously balancing himself like a tightrope walker. While singing, he jumped gracefully onto picnic tables and ran up a slide without missing a beat or getting out of breath. The show was filled with topical references. My favorites were when Eric in black sunglasses and a flashlight as a microphone did a rap number, complete with the requisite head bobbing and hand movements and in another number falling on his knees and playing air guitar. Dressed in tan cargo shorts and a white gauze shirt, only half buttoned, he was clean shaven, his longer hair held back from his forehead by a bandana headband.
The crucifixion scene is one I always dread. I was relieved when it seemed that this time it would be done symbolically, with Judas tying Jesus' hands on either side of the gazebo, red strips of cloth hanging down symbolizing the blood. Yet during the dramatic music and Eric singing "Oh God, I'm bleeding", "dying", "dead", my heart broke just as if it were being graphically shown, a testiment to Eric's abilities as an actor as well as a singer.
I saw the show four times. Each night it grew on me more. I prefer seeing a show more than once, more than twice even, especially if it's a show I'm not so familiar with. It's like listening to a CD for the first time. By the third time, you are humming the tunes and hitting replay on certain songs. This production did extremely well with the Muny audiences. Despite being a "small" show by their standards, with a simple unchanging set, despite the fact it was All Star Baseball week in St. Louis, the 11,000 seat theater was quite full every night. I know I'm prejudiced, but I believe this is due in large part to Eric's popularity and talent.