In my ninth grade confirmation class, the very first thing we learned was that “Britney Spears” is an anagram for “Presbyterians.” Saturday night, I was treated to another undeniable link between two of history’s biggest celebrities—Britney and Jesus—with the production, “SPEARS: The Gospel According to Britney.”
Given all the hype surrounding the show, which sold out the limited space in the Glicker-Milstein Theater in under a minute, it was hard to know what to expect and how high my hopes should be. However, “Spears” delivered in high fashion.
The tone of the show was incredibly appropriate for a story which has so much potential to go wrong—plenty of fun, as befits the music, but surprisingly reverent in places.
And yes, the music worked.
In fact, part of the fun was how absolutely jaw-droppingly perfect some of the numbers were. Never in my life did I think I would hear the song “Lucky” sang about Our Lord and Savior and feel genuine emotion, nor would I have thought that seeing a post-resurrection Jesus & Co. sing and dance to “Stronger” would be such riotous fun (though in retrospect, that’s because I wasn’t creative enough to think of it). Consisting of 22 songs from vintage to modern Britney, the performance managed to make each number memorable.
The musical arrangements by Max Druz, CC ’14, should not be overlooked in this accomplishment, as his renderings both preserved and adjusted each song to adapt to the tone of the story. The lyrics were effectively split among characters and created a cohesive, engaging story.
The band’s only slightly overpowering the vocals at times, and the whimsical and expressive choreography told the story in place of traditional dialogue. The production team also made excellent use of space in such a cramped theater, creating hellishly startling effects by banging on the cagey railings lining the seats. And oh God, the performers.
Alia Munsch, BC ’12, brought down the house as the Devil, not just with show-stopping vocals but lithe, agile dancing.
It’s to Ben Ciordia’s credit that he didn’t let Munsch overshadow his Judas, and let loose as he sold Jesus to Pontius Pilate in “I Wanna Go” and fleshed out his character with emotional depth in “Everytime.”
Michael Carter, CC ’14, came off as a scruffy, indie-rock sort of Jesus: Though his voice isn’t without technical flaws, it’s hard to imagine a “Where Are You Now”-soundtracked crucifixion different from his raw, moving rendition.
The only real complaint to raise with the show is a slight lack of clarity. Although the narrative arc is familiar to many, it might have been better to have some sort of opening monologue that laid out which pieces of the Bible story were going to be performed. Even as a person who’s read the Bible (I went through confirmation, remember?), it was occasionally hard to follow the action, especially at the beginning.
Still, little can be done to deny the star power of “SPEARS,” which manages to tackle the marriage of Spears and Christ in a way that respects both deities and keeps the audience fully engaged and entertained.