Has the Gospel of Matthew Ever Been More Joyful?
Way back around 1970, Godspell was penned by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak. Godspell started as a college project performed by students at Carnegie Mellon University and moved to La Mama in Greenwich Village in downtown New York. It was then re-scored for an off-Broadway production that opened on May 17, 1971, enjoying a long & successful run, and has played in various touring companies and revivals all around the world many times since.
Godspell is presented as a series of parables, taken primarily from the Gospel of Matthew. These are then interspersed with a variety of modern musical styles set primarily to lyrics from traditional hymns, with the passion of Christ explored briefly towards the end of show.
The musical is one of my favorites and is a genuinely joyful experience. I think the reason is that the creative forces, from the songwriters to the original cast of performers, were sincere in their love for Christ and the spiritual message of the Gospel. It comes through loud and clear – it elevates Godspell from a pleasant diversion to a timeless classic.
And indeed, the show is timeless. The musical is infinitely pliable by the creative people working on the production. It has been presented in a wide variety of settings and using a wide variety of thematic devices. Besides its wonderful soundtrack, I feel that’s the musical’s most enduring strength. While most people are familiar with its original hippy-dippy vision, bolstered by the major motion picture’s vision, the show has been presented using many different creative visions. It makes it a real treat to catch a live show when you can – you never know what you might get!
Want a nice night at the theater?
I have long-standing advice to anyone wanting to go see a musical or a play.
“Avoid The Great White Way and all its knockoffs across the fruited plain.”
Too expensive and you have to wait months between buying your tickets and actually seeing the performance. And after all that, it will probably be a strange psychological bloodletting by some mentalcases,
No, if you want to have a nice evening at the theater, go catch a high school production of a musical like Godspell, or even a grammar school production of Godspell Jr. You’ll likely see a show with a lot more heart and entertainment value, pay only a few dollars, and the whole evening will probably be more fun and memorable.
My advice extends well beyond Godspell – seeing some youngsters pour their hearts into any production beats the sheer spectacle and expense of modern theater. Support your local school productions and take in a show!
But Back To The Point
Several cast albums have been released over the years and while I love the entire soundtrack, probably my favorite song is Day By Day. And I’m not alone – that track from the original cast album reached #13 on the Billboard pop singles chart in the summer of 1972!
In 1973’s film version of Godspell, it’s sung by the lovely and talented Robin Lamont, whose rich and beautiful voice is truly moving. Apart from being a standout song among standout songs, the whole scene is very well done. It also includes my favorite segment of the film, Jesus’s tree-growing miracle! Watch for it, and Robin’s wide-eyed sense of wonder!
Through the magic of the internet, I will also take this opportunity to share a rare performance of the song by the very lovely and very talented Miss Shirley Bassey.* They just don’t make ’em like this anymore!
Pleaese make a selection and press Play
Day By Day – Godspell (1973)
Day By Day – Miss Shirley Bassey
And wouldn’t the world be a far better place if everyone took the song’s message seriously?
* Miss Bassey follows the song with Never, Never, Never, as an added bonus treat!