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Musical dates
Title: Godspell
Original language: English
Music: Stephen Schwartz
Book: John-Michael Tebelak
Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz
Premiere: 17th May 1971
Place of premiere: Off-Broadway

Godspell is an American off-Broadway musical from 1971; a preliminary version produced as a student performance was made in 1970. The text book is by John-Michael Tebelak , the music and some of the lyrics by Stephen Schwartz . Like the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, it comes from the time of a Jesus movement ( Jesus People ) in the USA, which also expanded to other countries.

The plot follows the description of the Gospel of Matthew from the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan to the calling of the disciples , the various parables , the Sermon on the Mount to betrayal, imprisonment and crucifixion .

A film version of the musical was released in 1973, shot in New York , directed by David Greene, with Victor Garber , David Haskell and Lynne Thigpen in their first film role. One of the film locations was the roof of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center .

Performances in London's West End followed in 1971, the German-language premiere took place in 1972, and in June 1976 the play had its premiere on Broadway .

History of origin

John Michael Tebelak, who comes from a Protestant family, was inspired to write Godspell in 1970 by attending an Easter mass and a police check-up after the service, during which he was mistaken for a drug addict due to his long hair . Tebelak submitted the book as a thesis in his subject of theater studies, after which it was performed in the same year at his university, Carnegie Mellon University.

Tebelak dropped out of his studies, went to New York and offered the play to the off-off Broadway theater "La Mama". In fact, Godspell was played there for a few weeks. In the audience there were also some producers who showed interest in the musical, but only on the condition that the music should be completely rewritten and arranged. Tebelak's songs were church chants from different epochs and countries , accompanied by hard rock music .

Stephen Schwartz , then 22 years old , was given the task of composing new, mass-produced pieces for Godspell , a job he completed within five weeks. The only song that he liked and stayed out of the original performance was the ballad By my side , which was written by one of the actors at the time, not Tebelak.

In 1971 the off-Broadway premiere of Godspell took place. For five years all performances were sold out in advance, so the attention of the press and New York's intellectual scene was not long in coming: it was performed in the famous Ambassador Theater, where it staged over 500 times until it ran out in 1977 was removed from the program. Productions in London and a film of the same name, nominated for the Golden Globe , followed. The ensemble was even founded by the then Pope Paul VI. Invited to the Vatican in 1975 .

In the 1990s, Godspell became well known and celebrated in Australia and Great Britain; in Germany it was staged as a German premiere in the Hamburg St. Petrikirche as early as 1972 , but remained largely unknown to the normal theater audience. The composer Stephen Schwartz also seemed disappointed with the German production. After a disastrous performance in Berlin in 1994, he withdrew all performance rights from the German publisher . Godspell was not performed in Germany for almost a decade.

Only the Landesbühne Hannover made a renewed attempt to bring the play to Germany. The director of this theater, Gerhard Weber, supported his colleague Christian Gundlach , in close cooperation with Stephen Schwartz, to prepare a new translation that would better match the original.


Act 1

Act 2

  • Learn Your Lessons Well (Reprise): Lamar
  • Turn Back, O Man: Sonia
  • Alas for You: Jesus
  • By My Side: Peggy, Gilmer & Ensemble
  • We Beseech Thee: Jeffrey & Ensemble
  • Day by Day (Reprise): Robin & Others
  • On The Willows: Band
  • Finale: Jesus & Ensemble
  • Bows: Ensemble

Original cast

(In alphabetic order)

  • Lamar Alford
  • Herb Braha
  • Peggy Gordon
  • David Haskell
  • Joanne Jonas
  • Stephen Nathan
  • Robin Lamont
  • Sonia Manzano
  • Gilmer McCormick
  • Jeffrey Mylett

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Carl Malsch : "Church for the City - St. Petri-Congregation in the City of Hamburg" in the publication series "zur sache", issue 23, Lutherisches Verlagshaus Hamburg 1981, ISBN 3-7859-0478-9 , page 80