The Godspell According to Who? Two Cast Albums Released Jan. 9

News   The Godspell According to Who? Two Cast Albums Released Jan. 9 Fans of the Stephen Schwartz musical, Godspell, will get the cast album equivalent of fishes and loaves Jan. 9, when discs from two different 2000 productions of the tuner get released.
Dueling Godspells:  2000 Off-Broadway cast and 2001 Touring cast.
Dueling Godspells: 2000 Off-Broadway cast and 2001 Touring cast.

Fans of the Stephen Schwartz musical, Godspell, will get the cast album equivalent of fishes and loaves Jan. 9, when discs from two different 2000 productions of the tuner get released.

The cast album of the 2000-2001 national touring company of Godspell (souped up for the Rent generation) and the cast album for the 2000 Off-Broadway production (also newly arranged, with some new lyrics by Schwartz) are on shelves Jan. 9. DRG Records, the label that gave us revival recordings of Kiss Me, Kate and Out of This World, among others, releases the tour version, which has new orchestrations approved by Schwartz. Fynsworth Alley, former Varese Sarabande producer Bruce Kimmel's label, releases the Off-Broadway version, which was billed as "hippie-free" by Schwartz, also had a more contemporary vision. Fynsworth discs usually debut for sale on exclusively on the web for a month prior to store release, but Godspell is going right to store due to interest in the recent Off Broadway revival.

The international smash by composer-lyricist Schwartz and book writer John-Michael Tebelak, playfully drawing on — and modernizing — the story of Christ, resurfaced in a non-Equity revival tour in September 2000, and dates have been announced through June 2001, by Phoenix Productions.

The disc preserves the fresh arrangements and orchestrations that bring the score out of the hippie era and into the 21st century. The songs are the same, according to production notes, but with a slightly modern edge, "such as the music of the Dave Matthews Band or Jewel."

Hugh Fordin produced the DRG disc. Scott Schwartz, Stephen's son, directed the touring production. The younger Schwartz is currently co director of Jane Eyre. The Off-Broadway staging closed Oct. 7, 2000, at the Theatre at Saint Peter's Church. The staging, produced by Third Eye Repertory, began July 18. The staging had new lyrics by Schwartz, updated dialogue, new arrangements and a contemporary directorial vision.

Third Eye Rep's Shawn Rozsa directed, leading a cast including Shoshana Bean, Tim Cain, Catherine Carpenter, Will Erat, Barrett Foa, Lucia Giannetta, Capathia Jenkins (The Civil War), Chad Kimball, Leslie Kritzer and Eliseo Roman. The show was driven by the sounds of the band, Shirley Temple of Doom.

To see the Off-Broadway staging's website, click on http://www.godspellny.com.

According to the tour's official website (www.godspellontour.com), "The inspiration for the musical arose on a snowy spring Easter Sunday during sunrise service, when John-Michael Tebelak, a long-haired student at Carnegie Mellon University, was stopped and frisked for drugs by a Pittsburgh policeman in the nave of St. Paul's Cathedral. As a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts degree, Tebelak was required to direct a production of a classic or a period piece for his thesis. He asked to be allowed to write his own play for this exercise and, using his Easter Sunday experience, wrote a musical based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Godspell was enthusiastically received. A chance meeting with Ellen Stewart of the Cafe La MaMa in New York paved the way for the musical to move from Carnegie to her Off Off-Broadway theatre for a two-week run. A producer saw Godspell while at La MaMa and offered to do the show Off-Broadway. The show opened Off-Broadway on May 17, 1971, and its success was immediately evident."

The show, which had songs by Carnegie Mellon grad Schwartz, became and international hit, with resident "sitdown" productions in major cities everywhere. The show moved to the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway in 1976 and ran 527 performances.

"Beautiful City," a song that appeared in the show's film version, has been interpolated into both revivals.

Songs include "Tower of Babble," "Prepare Ye," "Save the People," "Day by Day," "Learn Your Lessons Well," "Bless the Lord," "All for the Best," "All Good Gifts," "Light of the World," "Beautiful City," "Turn Back, O Man," "Alas for You," "By My Side" (with music by Peggy Gordon and lyrics by Jay Hamburger), "We Beseech Thee," "Day by Day (Reprise), "On the Willows," "Finale."

Stephen Schwartz offers the following in the tour CD's liner notes: "When Godspell originally premiered a little over a generation ago, we were in a divisive time in America.  It was the height of the Vietnam War and its accompanying 'Generation Gap,' and mistrust and hostility between Americans of different ages, races and political philosophies ran rampant. Thus, the show's message of community-building resonated for audiences of that time. Today, in these early days of a new millennium, we once again find bitter divisions in our society — what some have termed a 'cultural civil war.' Although we have no major crisis such as Vietnam over which to contend, our national discourse has become mean-spirited and fractious, and Americans once again find reasons to hate one another because of differences in race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation or political leaning. In our contemporary civilization, there is a noticeable lack, as writer Scott Peck would put it, of 'civility.' And now, here is this new touring production of Godspell. Director Scott Schwartz's production, set in a junkyard of discarded television sets and computer monitors, makes dazzling use of contemporary technology, from an opening in which philosophers send their contrary opinions flying over the Internet, to its clever employment of closed circuit television cameras, green-screen, and a host of up-to the minute techniques, jokes and references.  And the exciting new musical arrangements by Alex Lacamoire provide perfect state of-the-art accompaniment.  But at its heart, and best of all in my opinion, this is a new generation once again telling a timeless story — how a community is formed around a man with a simple but profound message: 'Always treat others as you would have them treat you' and 'Anything you did not do for one of your brothers here, you did not do for me.' It's a story we all clearly still need to hear."

— By Kenneth Jones