SPEARS: The Gospel According to Britney, Pat Blute’s musical which professed to pair The Greatest Story Ever Told with The Greatest Music Ever Written, ran for the last time at 8 pm last night, in Barnard’s Glicker-Milstein Theatre. Conor Skelding went.
On the jaded Columbia campus, SPEARS’s premise – using the music of Britney Spears to tell the story of Jesus Christ – appeared at first glance merely a parody. It was not. SPEARS took the often told story of Jesus’ birth and death and resurrected it with a new flair for the dramatic.
As pitched, SPEARS was “the gospel according to Britney.” A veritable opera, SPEARS may have lacked dialogue but by no means lacked plot. Sara Miller, choreographer, took it on herself to convey the plot through fantastic arrangements. Aiding her in her pursuit were the actor’s interpretations of Britney’s lyrics and minimal props (e.g. gold, frankincense, and myrrh etc.)
Britney’s songs were masterfully rearranged by Max Druz, musical director. By focusing on both well known and unfamiliar songs, Druz emphasizes the universal nature of both Britney and the gospels.
The question was, “how would Pat Blute’s vision land?” Like Britney’s career it had its ups and downs. A perfect tableau of the Last Supper was a major crowd pleaser; while pairings like that of the Stages of the Cross with a mash up of “Oops…I Did it Again” and “Hit Me Baby One More Time” left me feeling uncomfortable as I fell painfully silent.
Despite a large fundraising drive, I found the set and costumes strikingly humble. Yet, much like Jesus, these humble shrouds clothed something great. The cast’s enthusiasm was infectious and pervaded the show.
Michael Carter’s take on the King of the Jews straddled the cerebral and emotional with a particularly pensive portrayal and moving vocal stylings such as an a cappella rendition of “Where Are You Now?”
The score and script managed to showcase many of the talents from within the cast. Tessa Slovis and Ben Ciordia’s vocal talents were not put to waste in powerful numbers like “Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know” and “Everytime,” while Colette McIntyre’s comedy skills were utilized as a particularly funny Herod.
The show was, however, without a doubt stolen by the electric Alia Munsch. Her Devil used a mixture of violence and sex appeal that seemed reminiscent of Britney’s dirtier phases.
Overall the show was particularly moving. As I danced onstage with the cast for the curtain call, I was reminded of the power of the greatest story ever told; it just took some of the greatest music ever written to remember.