Godspell: The 40th Anniversary Celebration
Music and Lyrics By: Stephen Schwartz
Distributed by: Masterworks Broadway
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I had first heard about the musical called Godspell when it was revived on Broadway in 2011. Shortly after hearing about the revival, I received a copy of Godspell: The 40th Anniversary Celebration for review. Something about the name caused me to put off reviewing the musical. The title Godspell is quite similar to gospel and I wasn’t really in the mood to listen to a review of a musical that had any religious connotations. So, some four months later, when I realized I still had this 2-CD album in the queue, I thought, what am I waiting for? I might as well check this out.
As expected, Godspell does have religious connotations. In fact, it is deeply steeped in Christianity as it tells the tale of Jesus as written in the Gospel of Matthew. First appearing in 1971, Godspell features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, also well known for his work on Wicked. The musical was a smash hit and has since seen numerous revivals and has been adapted into movie format. Godspell: The 40th Anniversary Celebration is a 2-CD set featuring the original 1971 cast recording of the musical on the first CD and the soundtrack of the movie version on the second CD.
I was foolish to put off listening to this CD set. Godspell makes learning about Jesus, from preparation for his arrival (Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord), to his lessons via parable (Learn Your Lessons Well, All for the Best, All Good Gifts), to the passion of Christ (Turn Back O Man), to the treachery of Judas (By My Side) to his death (Finale), enlightening and a whole lot of fun. Schwartz’s music is enjoyable and the lyrics catchy.
When I first stated that I had never heard of Godspell prior to the 2011 revival, I realized that wasn’t exactly true. I had actually heard of one of the songs prior to this, never realizing that it was from this musical. The song Day by Day, despite not having many lyrics, describes the yearnings of all Jesus’ disciples: “Day by day / Oh Dear Lord / Three things I pray / To see thee more clearly / Love thee more dearly / Follow thee more nearly / Day by day.” The song landed at 13 on the Billboard Charts in the early 1970s and is one I remember from my childhood.
I enjoyed both the original cast recording and the film adaptation soundtrack, but the original version is by far my favorite. It may sound a bit less polished, but I thought it sounded most genuine. Fans of the musical will find great enjoyment in Godspell: The 40th Anniversary Celebration CD set. This album is also a great way to get kids interested in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It offers up a new, fun and unique way of learning the teachings of the Bible that kids might enjoy. Who doesn’t enjoy singing and dancing and why not use that to teach your children something about their religion?