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Neil Patrick Harris,
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A modern-day version of the gospels, opening with John the Baptist calling a disparate group of young New Yorkers from their workaday lives to follow and learn from Jesus. They form a roving acting troupe that enacts the parables through song and dance, comedy, and mime. Jesus' ministry ends with a last supper, his Crucifixion in a junkyard, and, the following morning, his body being carried aloft by his apostles back into the world of the living on the streets of New York. Written by
Steven Dhuey <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The fountain that everyone (except Jesus) jumps into during the song "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" is "The Angel of the Waters" (also known as the Bethesda Fountain) in New York City's Central Park. The name "Bethesda" is a reference to description in the Gospel of John of a pool that is supposed to have healing properties. See also the trivia section for Angels in America. See more »
In the final scene when the troupe is carrying the deceased Jesus around the corner, and the streets of Manhattan are still supposed to be vacant, a person can be seen walking on a sidewalk in the background. See more »
[Mae West impression]
C'mere, Jesus, I've gotta somethin' to show ya!
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The end credits include an infinity frames effect. A sixteen second film of a busy street is shown, and then the right and bottom of the frame is frozen in a sideways capital L. This then becomes the frame for the next iteration of the film, which in turn leaves its right and bottom edges as a frame for the next film. Over the frames and film are played thumbnails of the actors, then credit cards and finally a credit scroll. See more »
A Whimsical Look At The Gospel Still Has A Message
A few years ago I had the opportunity to travel to England with a church group. I sang in the chorus as the group presented "Godspell" to audiences in the area around Birmingham. At the time I wasn't familiar with the stageplay. I found it a very powerful experience, and it clearly impacted the audiences who saw it as well. This was my first opportunity to see the movie version of the play. Frankly I prefer the stageplay (perhaps I'm biased, having been involved with a production) but still found the movie enjoyable.
Based on the Gospel of Matthew and set to some wonderful songs, the story is set in modern day (well, 1973) New York City, where a group of people find themselves called out of the rat race by John the Baptist, get baptized in a city fountain and are then joined by Jesus (played by a young Victor Garber, whom I did not recognize!) in a romp through the city. Absolute purists and those who think the Gospel can only be told in King James Version style will likely not like this, and may even be offended by it. Jesus, for example, has a clown-like appearance to him, as do most of his disciples. And yet, that probably is an appropriate balance to the overly serious Jesus that many seem to picture in their minds. I like to think Jesus was in fact full of joy, and brought laughter to all those around him. Clown-like though he may be, the movie does, of course, become darker as it progresses, culminating, of course, in Jesus' betrayal by Judas and then his crucifixion. I found it interesting that David Haskell played both John the Baptist and Judas, and wonder whether the writers were making their own theological point in casting the same actor: that as John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus to call his disciples, so too did Judas prepare the way for Jesus to impact the world? Maybe ...
Most of Jesus' ethical teachings (revolving around love for God and love and compassion for one another) are here. I find the most moving scene to be that in which Jesus, just before his betrayal, essentially says good-bye to his disciples. Although in 1973, this would have meant nothing except a portrayal of the New York City skyline, watched with post 9/11 eyes, the repeated shots of the World Trade Centre towers perhaps serve now as a stark reminder of how necessary Jesus' message is: that love for God means nothing unless it's accompanied by love (and not hatred) for others.
My biggest beef with this is the closing scene. Why go to the trouble of putting out this version of Matthew's Gospel, and leave out the most important part - not just of Matthew's but of all the Gospels - the resurrection of Jesus! Here, the disciples simply carry Jesus' body out at the end. Yes, there was a certain sense of joy as they did it, which may imply that their experience of Jesus continues to impact them, but still Jesus himself is dead. That definitely detracts from this. (Our group in England restaged the closing scene so that the resurrected Jesus celebrates with his disciples rather than simply being carried out.) That theological objection aside, overall, this is a fun presentation of the gospel message. 7/10
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