PROVO — Godspell at BYU is a revelation.

Show closes March 31, 2023.

The musical, with a script by John-Michael Tebelak and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (including some new lyrics introduced in the 2012 Broadway revival), still contains the groovy goodness of the 1971 original. Jesus is certainly Hippie Jesus, and the group numbers have flower power appeal. But while this production is grounded in the strengths of the original, it is not defined by it. Soaring above simple categorization, the musical, based on the biblical book of Matthew, presents Jesus as a leader of a small, devoted, and diverse set of disciples. Much of the musical showcases the disciples acting out Jesus’s parables, before cascading rapidly and breathtakingly into consequential scenes with dastardly Pharisees and crucifixion.

The word “brilliant” only scratches the surface of Tim Threlfall’s direction and Adam Dyer‘s choreography. What he created conceptually—unifying the actors, stage, music and movement—was extraordinary. The flow among the actors, how seamless the music flowed from one to another as they sang, danced and interacted . . . It was electric. Every moment of Godspell looks like a professional Equity production. The cast delivered a joyful musical bursting with palpable group energy, and every actor is immensely capable of captivating the audience. The principal cast of 10 was onstage practically the entire time, and every second every actor had something purposeful to do.

Judas (played by Alex Joyne) was mercurial, complicated and tragic. Oakley Thacker’s Jesus was friendly and approachable, and the way he knew each disciple by name and had a special greeting for each was heartwarming and deeply didactic. But Thacker wasn’t just “good vibes Jesus” (although he had plenty of those); he had real bite to Pharisaical hypocrites and was heartbreaking in his death. Judas lifting Jesus onto a chain link fence serving as a cross with harsh red lighting (by lighting designer Marianne Ohran and assistant lighting designer Gabi Pack) was an unforgettable image.

The urban schoolyard set (designed by Sariah Roberts) featured a slide, swing, merry-go-round, and abundant graffiti on a concrete structure that looked remarkably like a real music studio, with a live band directed by Ron Saltmarsh playing inside. Why a schoolyard? In the director’s notes, Threlfall mentioned three Bible verses that served as his creative concept, including Matthew 18:3, “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

The set’s integration into the story was outstanding. The way the swing set stood in for the Garden of Gethsemane—with Jesus clinging to a metal post like an olive tree—and how the angels helped Jesus down the blue slide like walking on water—were brilliant. And the inclusion of graffiti in foreign languages perfectly complemented the international flavor of the show.

The poignant costumes (designed by Ryver Mecham) seemed to be based on the heritage of individual actors. Perhaps the actors may have been involved in developing a look based on their ancestors’ homelands. Not only did this make costumes deeply meaningful, it perfectly augmented the multilingual graffiti and universal message of the show: that Jesus’s gospel is for the whole world.

Knowing that the stage was a converted space in the old Provo High School, I was nervous about the quality of technical elements of the show. But my fears were misplaced. It was outstanding. The thrust stage felt massive but also perfectly filled the set—and it put the audience right up to the action. Microphones were flawless, and the sound felt as clear and crisp as in any Broadway house, thanks to the sound designer (Tiffany Parker) and technical director (Travis Coyne). 

In May, I am going to London’s West End to see a half dozen shows. I doubt I will enjoy any as much as Godspell at Brigham Young University. From concept to direction, acting to singing, set and choreography, Godspell was a revelation. By the last song, members of the cast and audience were crying together. I have never witnessed anything like BYU’s production of Godspell. It is likely the best production of Godspell that Utah will ever see, and the best thing onstage in the state right now. Don’t miss it.

Godspell plays Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Saturdays at 2 PM through March 31 at the Mainstage Theatre in the West Campus Building on the campus of Brigham Young University. Tickets are $16-18. For more information, visit