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 <email@example.com>
When Joanne starts to rattle the mug, against the "jail bars", Katie turns her head to look at her. But in the next shot, Katie's head is straight and then turns her head to look at Joanne. See more »
Consider the lilies of the field. They don't work. They don't spin. Yet I tell you - Solomon in all his splendor was not attired like one of these. Now, if that's how God clothes the grass, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown unto the fire, will He not all the more clothe *you*?
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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 »
The hit Broadway musical Godspell was a contemporary adaptation of episodes from the Gospel According to St. Matthew. In 1972, its original Producers, Edgar Lansbury, Stuart Duncan and Joseph Beruh, decided to bring the Stephen Schwartz/Jon-Michael Tebelak musical to the screen themselves, with a view toward maintaining as densely as possible the artistic integrity of their original stage version.
That said, the film version merits special reference in light of the recent deaths of two of its principals: David Greene, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay, with Tebelak; and actress/singer Lynne Thigpen, who was a member of the 10-actor ensemble cast of the film.
Set in a New York City not yet recognizable to a generation destined to grow up in the shadow of 9/11, Godspell the movie is highlighted with spectacular moments that are best described as incredible. Its expanded opening number begins silently on the Brooklyn Bridge, as David Haskell, portraying both John the Baptist and Judas Iscariot, walks into the heart of Manhattan, hoping that his fellow New Yorkers will indeed "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." Jesus, portrayed by Victor Garber (who had a tremendous singing voice in those days), is depicted as a kind of manchild/Superman icon, determined to save the world through his ministry of three years. The ten actors then cavort across the screen over the next 95 or so minutes, telling parables in a raucously funny, delightfully rockin' manner.
In its final sequences, however, the film turns understandably dark, as Garber/Jesus confronts his ultimate destiny. Before long, the epic Finale, in which Garber, tied by his wrists to a chain-link fence, depicts the Crucifixion in horrifyingly simple terms; all the while, the other nine actors scream horribly as the rocking Schwartz score howls to its otherworldly symphonic conclusion.
With the coming of the dawn, the actors carry off their "dead" leader and vanish into the maelstrom of Manhattan, in a closing image that will shake you to its foundations, even as you groove to Paul Shaffer's awesome keyboard action during the expanded end-credit sequence.
The present generation knows Lynne Thigpen as a brilliant actress/singer and performer whose subsequent knack for portraying motherly or grandmotherly roles was no doubt spawned by her experience in the Godspell movie. To a whole universe of kids, however, she will always be known as simply "The Chief." If you were, as I was, a regular viewer of PBS Kids' Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and its eventual spinoff, Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?, you need not be made familiar with the Chief. She was tough, motherly, no-nonsense --- but she knew how to teach fans a thing or two, whether it was the power of geography or the realm of history.
Director David Greene, who died at the age of 82, was the fellow responsible for bringing the spectacular images of the Godspell film to the screen. It remains perhaps his most famous such feature, the only one wherein one could suggest that he was properly in tune with the youth of the 70s. Perhaps, even now, it is this that causes most folks to compare this film against Norman Jewison's film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. Both films, frankly, are what they are. No more, no less.
Enjoy, then, Godspell the movie --- but remember that you are also witnessing the blossoming of two of the unique talents who brought it to life: David Greene, director; Lynne Thigpen, star. So long, you two. We'll miss ya.
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