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Music Review: Original Cast Recording – Godspell 40th Anniversary Celebration

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Godspell. What do you think of when you hear that? For most people, it brings to mind one of the most well known musicals ever. The show reenacts the Sermon on the Mount from the Book of Matthew, but with modern style. Considering the 40th Anniversary Celebration CD of Godspell has just been released, plenty of audiences have enjoyed it as well.

1971 is the year when Stephen Schwartz composed the show’s score.  Godspell would eventually become an Off Broadway production after over a month’s worth of rehearsals.

In a wise move, the packet includes both the Original Cast Recording from the theatrical production and the Original Motion Soundtrack. Although the setup is the same in both versions, there are differences. For example, the cast varies greatly. Only a handful of actors who performed the show on stage ended up in the film. Alias and Glee fans will recognize Victor Garber as Jesus in the movie. Also, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? alum Lynne Thigpen is part of the film cast. Unfortunately, Thigpen died a while back.

The song lists, while agreeing for the most part, have slight differences. “We Beseech Thee,” written specifically for the stage, is a bouncy and playful number sung adeptly by Jeffrey Mylett. Listeners will tap their toes along with every well-delivered note. On the other hand, “Beautiful City” replaces this selection in the film adaptation. The latter isn’t bad, and the piano helps.

“Bless the Lord” is probably my favorite song. Whether it is Thigpen or Joanne Jonas who opens this, each woman has a solid set of pipes. The rising crescendos are perfectly mastered.

Garber solos twice for the film. “Save The People” is the softer number. Plaintive and haunting, it is in sharp contrast to “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” which opens the performance and introduces the audience to the cast. To get an idea of just how versatile Garber is, “Alas For You,” featured in the second half of the movie, comes off with more of a baritone range than the previous gentle and quiet tenor he used towards the opening of the movie. This is my least favorite, but that has more to do with personal preference than Garber’s vocal abilities.

While there is a religious overtone throughout the production, anyone can find something to remember by the time it’s all over. Plenty of songs are fun, catchy tunes. A few are darker, particularly towards the end.

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