Producer Adam Epstein (Cry-Baby, Hairspray) announced today that the landmark rock musical Godspell is scheduled to begin performances on Broadway in the summer of 2008 at a Shubert Theatre to be announced. This new production marks the first Broadway revival of the seminal American musical since its acclaimed run ended thirty years ago. With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, The Magic Show) and book by John-Michael Tebelak, Godspell will reunite the creative team of the critically-acclaimed 2006 Paper Mill Playhouse conception in a completely new production, marking the Broadway debut of director Daniel Goldstein.
The new production of Godspell, helmed by Daniel Goldstein in his Broadway debut will feature choreography by Christopher Gattelli (Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me) scenic design by David Korins (Passing Strange, Bridge and Tunnel), costumes by Miranda Hoffman (Well), lighting by Ben Stanton (Altar Boyz) and sound by Randy Hanson.
"Godspell embraces the 21st century in this exciting new production of one of the longest-running and most beloved Off-Broadway musicals of all time. Using improvisation and contemporary themes to illustrate the parables, Godspell brings these lessons to life through the grand tradition of musical theatre," explain press notes, "The score, by Academy and Grammy Award winner and six time Tony Award nominee Stephen Schwartz features recognizable songs that have become staples of both the American musical theatre and popular culture alike. With a book by John-Michael Tebelak, Godspell uniquely and joyfully exclaims a message of tolerance, kindness and hope that resonates just as deeply as the music."
Based on The Gospel according to St. Matthew, Godspell was originally a senior thesis directing project for Carnegie Mellon University Master of Fine Arts candidate John-Michael Tebelak. Using a profound experience at an Easter Sunday church service for inspiration, Tebelak wrote the first version of Godspell in 1970. This first version included a score comprised mostly of lyrics from the Episcopal Hymnal set to music by the student cast. After a chance meeting with Ellen Stewart of Café La MaMa in New York, Godspell transferred to La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club for a two-week, ten performance run where it was brought to the attention of producers Edgar Landsbury (brother of Angela Landsbury) and Joseph Beruh. Excited by what they saw, the duo approached Tebelak with the opportunity of an off-Broadway run if he would agree to a new score. Tebelak agreed and the producers hired Stephen Schwartz, another alumnus of the Carnegie Mellon theatre department, to write new songs for the show. Schwartz's score featured a variety of styles including pop, folk rock, gospel and vaudeville. "By My Side" was the only song kept from the original production. The new Schwartz / Tebelak musical Godspell opened off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre on May 13, 1971 and its success was immediately evident. The critics raved unanimously and in August of 1971, Godspell moved to the larger Promenade Theatre where it ran for 2,124 performances making it one of the longest running Off-Broadway musicals in history.
After five years of sold-out audiences Off-Broadway, Godspell made its Broadway debut on June 22, 1976 at the Broadhurst Theatre. Critics found the show to be just as fresh and exciting as it was when it first opened at the Cherry Lane. The show would move to the Plymouth and the Ambassador before closing on September 4, 1977 after 527 performances. In all, the musical achieved more than 2,600 performances both on Broadway and off.
Godspell has entertained audiences the world over for decades. Major sit-down productions of the smash hit musical were produced in most all major cities including Boston, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago and Toronto. During much of 1972, these seven companies performed simultaneously. Productions also opened abroad in Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg and Melbourne. A London production, which opened in 1971, ran for nearly three years. In the last four years of its New York run, there were 25 companies performing Godspell around the world with eight resident companies and three touring companies. Godspell has been credited for establishing Toronto as a major theatre center that could support its own productions with its own actors. The legendary 1972-73 Toronto production cast local actors for the record-breaking production providing the first paying jobs for actors Victor Garber, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Gilda Radner, Dave Thomas and Martin Short. Paul Schaffer served as musical director.
A film version of Godspell was released in 1973 set in modern New York City. The cast featured Toronto alum Victor Garber as Jesus, David Haskell as John the Baptist/Judas and Lynne Thigpen in her first film role. John-Michael Tebelak co-wrote the screenplay and served as the creative consultant. The song "Beautiful City" was written for the film and has subsequently been performed in major stage revivals of the show. Godspell permeated pop culture when its song "Day By Day" reached #13 on the Billboard Top 100 list.