Book by John Michael Tebelak
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Conceived and Originally Directed by John Michael Tebelak
Based on The Gospel According to St. Matthew

Godspell | Pop / Rock, Rated G | Two Acts, Book Musical

  • About the Show

    Conceived and originally directed by John Michael Tebelak, with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, GODSPELL is one of the biggest off-Broadway and Broadway successes of all time.

    Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, and featuring a sparkling score by Stephen Schwartz,GODSPELL boasts a string of well-loved songs, led by the international hit, "Day By Day." As the cast performs "Prepare Ye The Way Of The Lord," "Learn Your Lessons Well," "All For The Best," "All Good Gifts," "Turn Back, O Man" and "By My Side," the parables of Jesus Christ come humanly and hearteningly to life.

    Drawing from various theatrical traditions, such as clowning, pantomime, charades, acrobatics and vaudeville, GODSPELL is a groundbreaking and unique reflection on the life of Jesus, with a message of kindness, tolerance and love.

    Synopsis

    ACT ONE

    Godspell begins with Jesus declaring himself as God and King in whom there is no beginning and no end. The company takes on the roles of different philosophers (including Socrates, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Leonardo DaVinci, Frederic Nietzche, and Jean Paul Sartre) who debate the existence of the God. The debate disintegrates into babble where ideas become only fragments.

    John the Baptist enters and brings order as he sings "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord". John the Baptist baptizes the company who quickly exit. When Jesus wishes to be baptized, John kneels and wishes to be baptized by him instead. Jesus brings John back to his feet and tells him that he is here to save mankind in the song, "Save The People".

    The company returns in clown costumes. They begin to put clown make-up on their faces. Jesus assures them that he has come not to abolish the law of the prophets, but to complete it. While the company moves like stylized marionettes, Jesus informs them that those who keep to the law of God will earn the highest place in heaven. To illustrate this, he tells the story of the widow and the judge. The story shows that God is a good judge who will vindicate those who cry out to him day and night.

    The company then takes over and acts out the story of the Pharisee and the tax gatherer praying in the temple to illustrate that every man who humbles himself before God shall be exalted.

    Jesus preaches the law of offering gifts at the altar before God as the company depicts making offerings. Then, as they all clap in rhythm, they act out the story of a Master and the Servant. The Servant, after asking for the Master's pity and being granted remittence from the debt owed to his Master, refuses to show pity on a fellow Servant who is in debt to him. Learning of the first Servant's reprehensible behavior, the Master condemns him to prison until the debt is paid. Jesus tells the company the moral of the story is that one must forgive as God forgives. If one does not forgive, then God will condemn one to prison.

    One of the company members sings "Day By Day" which is a prayer for clear vision. The company joins in on the song. After it ends, Jesus preaches that if one part of the body offends, better to lose it than have the whole of it thrown into hell.

    The company then plays charades to answer such questions as "if a man sues you for your shirt…" or "if a man asks you to go a mile with him…" posed by Jesus. The company then does a pantomime of the Good Samaritan story for Jesus who then tells them to love their enemies and not to make a show of religion. If good deeds are done in secret, the reward will come from God.

    The company performs the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus is a poor man who goes to heaven, and the rich man goes to hell. The rich man begs God to let Lazarus rise from the dead in order to warn his rich brothers of their eventual fate. One of the company members sings "Learn Your Lesson Well" in which he warns of eternal doom if one does not learn the laws of God.

    Jesus tells the company that no one can be devoted to two masters, and that no man can serve God and money. One of the company members tells a story of a man who spends his life accumulating things and then dies before he can enjoy it. She then sings "Oh Bless The Lord, My Soul" in which she praises a patient and wise God. Jesus bids the company to put away thoughts of material things and anxieties about tomorrow.

    The company recites the beatitudes (blessed are the poor in spirt, etc.), and Jesus answers them in a call-and-response manner. However, Judas recites the final beatitude about persecution and directs it at Jesus. The company freezes with fear about what events are yet to come. However, Jesus quickly changes the subject and sings "All For The Best" through which he assures everyone that even if life is bad, their reward will be in heaven. Judas sings a verse of the song as well, and he and Jesus perform a soft shoe dance. Followed by the joining in of the entire company.

    After the song ends, the company does various bits of stage business. One company member sings "Jesus Loves Me" like a school girl. Another company member pretends to have stage fright. Jesus organizes them all to tell the parable of the sower and the seeds which represent the word of God. To further illustrate the parable, one company member sings "All Good Gifts".

    The company then pretends to be soldiers in the military, and Jesus their drill sergeant. They act out the story of the prodigal son, and sing "Light of the World", a song which encourages everyone to be shining beacons in the world. Jesus announces that they are taking a ten minute break and thanks the audience for coming.

    ACT TWO

    While one of the company members sings a reprise of "Learn Your Lessons Well", the company sets up the stage for Act II. When the song is over, another company member comes up through the audience and sings "Turn Back O Man" in which she encourages mankind to give up its foolish ways and turn to God. Jesus joins her in the singing of the song, and they dance.

    Company members then become Pharisees who question Jesus's authority. Jesus questions their questions with stories and tells them that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart and to love thy neighbor as thyself. In the song, "Alas For You", Jesus scorns the Pharisees and calls them hypocrites. Some company members join in the song and throw garbage at the Pharisees.

    At the Wiling Wall in Jerusalem, Jesus predicts that he will not be seen again until a future time. He remembers the time of Noah when the flood swept over the land and drowned mankind. He predicts that when he comes again, only one man and one woman will be taken with him. The rest will be left wailing out the kingdom of God.

    One of the women company members is thrown down onto the stage and called an adulteress. Jesus tells the company that the one who is faultless can throw the first stone at her. When no one condemns her, Jesus assures her he will not condemn her either, but she must not sin again. The woman sings "By My Side" in which she asks Jesus to travel with her.

    As Judas betrays Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, Jesus tells of a time when he will sit in glory and divide men into two groups like a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. His righteous sheep will enter heaven while the cursed goats will face eternal fire. The goats beg for mercy and sing "We Beseech Thee". When the song is over, the company sings a reprise of "Day By Day" and they remove their clown make-up.

    Jesus announces that one of the company will betray him, telling Judas to do what he has to do quickly. Judas runs off. Then, in a recreation of the last supper, Jesus gives the company bread and wine and announces that it is his body and blood. Though this is the final time they will eat and drink together, they eventually will again in the kingdom of God. Jesus bids farewell to his followers and prays in the garden. In a moment of uncertainty, he begs for the burden to be lifted from him and is tempted by the devil, but he orders the devil to be gone.

    Judas returns and embraces Jesus who is crucified on the fence upstage while the company climbs the fence and wails. In the "Finale", Jesus sings as he dies. Then there is no movement. The company removes Jesus from the fence and carries him off as they sing "Long Live God" in harmony with "Prepare Ye The Way Of The Lord".

    Performance Group

    High School, University, College, Amateur, Professional

    Casting Information

    Ensemble Cast - Many featured roles, Showcases trained singers, Star Vehicle – Male

    In the script, other than the characters of JESUS and JOHN THE BAPTIST / JUDAS, the characters are called by the first names of the original cast members. The first names of the actual actors in the production may also be used.

    In any given production, each actor will bring his or her own personality traits to the character, but it is helpful for the director to look for certain salient personality characteristics when casting each role. This allows the individual cast members to be different enough from one another for the audience to distinguish them, and it makes the specific assignments of lines in the script make sense from a personality and character arc point-of-view.

    ENSEMBLE Soloists, featured actors, and others.
    JESUS Charismatic and high energy, yet gentle and loving. He is the deceptively calm leader of the troupe. He is eventually betrayed by Judas and persecuted.
    Male, 18-30 yrs old
    Range: A3 - G5
    JOHN THE BAPTIST / JUDAS He possesses the attributes of two Biblical figures: he is both Jesus’ lieutenant and most ardent disciple, and also the doubter who begins to question and rebel. Like Jesus, he is also charismatic, but in an overt revolutionary way. Handsome and masculine with a subtle undertone of sexuality.
    Male, 18-35 yrs old
    Range: A3 - G5

    Production Material

    15 x Libretto-Chorus Books
    2 x Vocal Scores
    1 x Guitar
    1 x Drums
    1 x Bass

Partners & Associates

  • cipc
  • bsa
  • samro