THE LEADING MEN: The Men of Godspell — Two Sides of Wallace Smith: John and Judas | Playbill
order for it to ring true, we need a character like Judas to remind us that life also involves pain. 3. What did you notice about Judas's relationship with Jesus?. Godspell is a musical composed by Stephen Schwartz with the book by John- Michael Tebelak. . Judas directs the final beatitude regarding persecution at Jesus, and Jesus quickly changes the subject ("Did I ever tell you that I used to read. Godspell is the musical film of the Off-Broadway musical Godspell created by John-Michael Tebelak with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Directed by David Greene with stars Victor Garber as Jesus and David Haskell as Judas/ John the Baptist, the film . "Tebelak and I are enjoying an ideally smooth working relationship.
It was the typical audition process. Right before [the audition process] wrapped up, I had a meeting with Stephen Schwartz — of course, I'm tripping over the fact that I'm standing before Stephen Schwartz — and after that [the producers said], "We want you to be a part of this special show. We were all thrown into this show and had to get well acquainted with each other and trust each other really fast, which now we do without thinking.
Tell me about working with the cast. For me, it's such a great learning experience because we all bring something to the table that nobody else can bring. Because Godspell is such an ensemble-driven piece, you really are able to see the strengths of each and every person. It's like we're all one body. We depend upon each other so much, and that also carries over outside of work. Our camaraderie goes so far beyond the stage. We really do joke around and play around a lot.
Smith with Hunter Parrish background in Godspell. In my mind, Stephen Schwartz is one of Broadway's all-time greatest composers and writers. When I first met him in the audition process, it kind of felt normal because I would assume that if you wrote the show you would want to be there.
I can't tell you how nurturing and how wonderful he was to work with during the entire recording session. How did the cast album recording session go? This is my first cast album. One of my dreams came true because I've always wanted to be a part of an original cast album, and what an album to be a part of because it's really all of our work and all of our voices. Did you have to do any research on these biblical characters or did your own religion play a part in how you approached the show?
I definitely knew a lot about both of the characters because of my religious background, which is Christianity.
Godspell (film) - Wikipedia
Being in church my whole life — in my family church was such a big deal — I've heard many stories about John the Baptist, and Judas, of course, everybody knows to be the betrayer. For me, the research that I did was about the facts. With John the Baptist, he was kind of a wild man in the sense that he was very passionate about Jesus coming one day. We really only see John the Baptist for a moment in the show. I tried to capture some of that passion in those couple of moments.
Judas is really what I focused on the most. I knew that when people came to see the show, they were going to be somewhat against him because he's the villain or the betrayer.
What I was able to discover, with Danny [Goldstein], my director, was really getting away from "I'm Judas — the villain" and focusing more on his relationship and friendship that he had with Jesus to be one of the disciples. Focusing on that aspect, I was able to find the joy in the show and not play the entire show as an evil menace. I'm sure some people might think that [playing him as the villain would be] the logical thing to do, but in this production of Godspell, we focus on a community of people that have to learn how to really love one another.
Judas happens to be the one that needs the most love and forgiveness. I think one of the most beautiful things in this show is that they bring him back into the community even though he feels he's not worthy to be a part of it anymore. I don't think of him as [the enemy]. I think of him as somebody who really wants to do the right thing, but, in all human nature, we all have things we need to work on. What was that like? Danny is probably the most urban director that I've gotten to work with.
His knowledge about Godspell, in particular, is so vast.
- The parables of gospel get fresh retelling in 'Godspell'
Another Carnegie Tech grad, Stephen Schwartz, was shopping his idea for a musical called Pippin Pippin around town, and was invited to write the new score. Completed in five weeks, his soft rock score with lyrics taken from hymns, psalms, and other religious sources, was interpolated into the already-running Off-Broadway show.
It moved uptown to Broadway in Much more accessible to the adult ticket-buying public than the harder rock of Hair's score, Schwartz's songs became immediately popular. Godspell ran in New York for six years, was made into a movie, revived off-Broadway inand still has road companies touring the world. Bringing God to the People Tebelek's intention was to recreate the situation of Jesus and his disciples in contemporary terms.
Like the disciples in the Bible, the twelve followers in the show are average people. Jesus teaches them through stories, and in this modern context, through other contemporary forms of storytelling, including puppetry, mime, "improvised" and sketch comedy.
The main point of the parables was to translate complex philosophical ideas into terms easily understood by lay persons. In the Bible, Jesus uses everyday situations familiar to the disciples to create stories that illustrate his lessons. In Godspell, he does the same thing, but because Godspell is set 2, years later, the details of the stories are similarly modernized.
In both cases, he makes religious philosophy easy to grasp. People today can't relate to masters and slaves, innkeepers and silver pieces, pharisees and tax gatherers; but they can relate to contemporary pop culture references, pop music, and modern slang. The most important point for anyone mounting a production of Godspell is that it's not a revue or a variety show; it is literally a religious experience.
In far too many productions, the spiritual side of the material is flatly ignored in favor of flashy song and dance. These productions are still entertaining, but not moving. The Last Supper and Crucifixion are not powerful moments because there has been no emotional base created on stage.
Those of us familiar with Christianity know that we should be moved, but we aren't. For the show to succeed, the audience must be converted along with the cast. The experience must be genuine in every sense. The skits, puppets, and ad libs are a way into the material for the audience; but they are not an end unto themselves. Though the show is a lot of fun on its surface, the text is taken almost entirely from the Bible, mostly from the Gospel according to Matthew, and the parables are attempting to define a moral code.
The purpose of the show is not merely to be cute, but to communicate serious philosophical and moral concepts in a user-friendly context. The point of the show is that religion should be fun, accessible, joyful; but should not be supplanted by razzle dazzle.
Developing a Concept for the Show John-Michael Tebelek wrote Godspell in order to give people a "way in" to religion in general and the teachings of Christ specifically. The physical production must work toward that end as well, through the sets, costumes, staging, and acting style. The show's original concept was based on Harvey Cox's Feast of Fools, which argued that for religion to once again reach the people, it had to reclaim its festivity and fantasy.
Much of organized religion had become so somber, so serious, that the joy had gone out of it. From this concept, Tebelek seized upon the idea of using clowns to recapture that lost feeling of celebration and revelry. The cast put on clown make-up and wild colorful costumes after being drawn together by Jesus.
This concept was based not only on Cox's work, but also on the joy and freedom of the youth movement of the s and early s.
The cast as ordinary people becoming clowns illustrated a dramatic change, a very visible kind of conversion. This hybrid of clowns and flower children was a familiar image to audiences of the early 70s.
It is not, however, to audiences of the 90s. In the years since Godspell premiered, thousands of productions have been mounted. Many directors have looked for ways to make the show fresh again, to remove it from the confines and perceived shallowness of the s and update it.
The 60s youth movement is no longer familiar to most people, and as a society, we're getting used to more and more realism on television and in the movies. The purpose of Godspell is to use what is familiar to the audience to help them connect with the material. It's considered common practice to insert your own jokes and pop culture references into the script, and this helps update the material to an extent, but fundamental elements of the show must be re-examined.
In a society which is no longer controlled completely by white males, many productions of Godspell cast women, blacks or Asians as Jesus, and this gives the show a strongly contemporary feel. I've seen productions that portrayed the twelve disciples as painters or construction workers in an empty building, young people on a playground, street people in a junkyard or vacant lot, etc.
The only flaw in these conceptions is that they have Jesus coming to an already assembled group of people, instead of drawing average people from the general populace, as he did in the Bible. It is the diversity of the disciples that makes them an interesting group, capable of going back to various parts of society to spread the word after Jesus is gone.
A production I directed set the action in a diner. A group of very different people were drawn to the diner where they encounter Jesus.
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They came from all parts of society, yet they could find common ground in the diner. They were dressed in street clothes and they applied no clown make-up; their conversion was a gradual one, conveyed through their acting.
As might be expected in real life, some of them immediately accepted Jesus as teacher, others did not. The clown costumes in the original production signified dramatic change, but was that change too instant, too easy?
We have become a skeptical, cynical nation. If someone came up to one of us and told us he was Christ, we would naturally assume he was delusional.
Though any musical requires a certain suspension of disbelief, there are limits to an audience's cooperation. It's easy to fall into that 'Let's put makeup on each other and be hippies and clowns' kind of thing. So all of the jokes were taken out, until we just had this dry script of parables; it was basically Jesus talking for pages and pages at a time. At our first run through, everyone was, like, 'This is boring! These individuals present their various philosophies in the prologue, but they soon realize that what they believe just doesn't bring them as far as they want to go.
That's when John the Baptist says, 'I have the answer. The point is that Jesus is this everyday guy. He's the son of God, but he's also a man. That's why he's the perfect interpreter and teacher. They're more recognizable to a modern audience, so the whole prologue sequence is a little more tangible and accessible. The whole idea is that Judas wants to emulate Jesus, so it makes sense that he prepares the way for him--and that accentuates his role later on.
Singing the 'Prepare Ye' number at the start of the show really helps me 'get to' Judas. I've gotten to know this bunch of people so well. We function as a family. If we're feeling frustrated or down or whatever, someone's got to give a pep talk. We've been together since January, when we first started rehearsing.