For half a century, music-lovers, Jesus-lovers, theater nerds and more have flocked to community, regional and Broadway theaters to witness productions of Godspell: the Stephen Schwartz musical based on Jesus’ ministry as told through the parables found in the Gospel of Matthew.
The witty, sentimental and evergreen musical started as an off-Broadway hit in 1971. From there it moved to the silver screen in 1973 and to Broadway in 1976.
Since its opening, the musical garnered a strong fan base, which came as a surprise to many, especially those involved in the production’s early stages.
Director John-Michael Tebelak formed the retelling of Jesus’ last days before His death and resurrection for his master thesis project at Carnegie Mellon University. The original cast comprised of fellow students singing lyrics from the Episcopal hymnal. Only one song, “By My Side,” written by the original cast, remained when Schwartz joined the creative team as lyricist before it went to off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre on May 17, 1971. Jay Hamburger and Peggy Gordon co-wrote the piece, which Schwartz said he could not improve.
Gordon recalls the curtain call of the musical’s opening off-Broadway performance: “As we were bowing, I heard thunderous applause,” she says. “They were standing on their feet, and they were applauding, and they were crying. I thought to myself, I guess it’s good!”
In the height of the pandemic, The Berkshire Theater Group took to the stage to share the first professional theater-mounted production of Godspell in August 2020. The Plexiglass partitions surrounding the actors and temperature checks for audience members reflected the odd circumstances under which the performance was being held, but artist, director and Berkshire Theater Group CEO Kate Maguire says the musical’s message of hope and love was needed for just such a time as this.
″Godspell just felt like the one,” Maguire said. “All of a sudden the story of Godspell and what it’s about became more important.”
“Godspell revisits the idea of Jesus as a revolutionary figure,” an article on the Berkshire Theater website says. Of its second Broadway revival in 2011, the article states, “The ability of Godspell to profoundly impact audiences has only grown throughout the years. What better way to address the divide amongst the population than with a musical about love, community and connection?”
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SOURCE: Charisma News