The Monthly Roar

The Student News Site of Maryvale Preparatory School

The Monthly Roar

The Monthly Roar

A Brief History of Godspell


Maryvale’s performing arts department is gearing up for their next all school musical, Godspell! 

This beloved classic has an interesting story behind its creation. The writer of Godspell, John-Michael Tebelak, is rumored to have entered a church during a rainy music festival, only to be judged and turned away because of his hippie appearance. In Carol de Giere’s book, The Godspell Experience, Giere explains his process: “his plan was to re-approach the Biblical parables and text with the innocence of a child and to play with the material as if it was a school recess.” 

Tebelak began working on the first draft of Godspell as his master’s thesis at Carnegie Mellon University. Little did he know that the script would be lovingly altered over the next several decades and become a staple of musical theatre lovers everywhere! The original actors, a group of experienced improvisers, comedians, magicians, and clowns, captured the spirit of playfulness and wonder perfectly as they experimented with the original biblical text and made it their own. The original Jesus was a magician, and many magic tricks still remain in the script today. Music was added and adapted from pre-selected songs from the episcopal hymnal, and Godspell was born. 

When workshops were finished, the production enjoyed its first preview at La MaMa, an off Broadway venue famous for experimental theatre. The show received rave reviews! Producers saw the show’s potential for a Broadway run, and they brought on Stephen Schwartz (who also wrote the music for Wicked!), a fellow Carnegie Mellon graduate to compose some new songs for the show. And thus the cultural phenomenon was born! The show went on to be a huge success on Broadway and enjoyed several revivals, and the film adaptation garnered quite the cult following as well. 

Godspell was created amidst the 60s and 70s, and it’s clear how the civil rights movement, second wave feminism, anti-capitalism, and counter cultural influences informed the play’s development. Godspell portrays Jesus as a revolutionary, an icon, a rock star even! One of the most fun parts about producing Godspell is indeed the freedom and playfulness that it encourages its actors to engage with. Each troupe can bring their own “flavor,” style and sense of humor to Godspell and truly explore the spirit of play. It’s timeless because it’s so adaptable. What I think makes Godspell is produced all over the world today in schools, community theatres, and professional venues, and each show is different and unique to that community. Theatre is truly about community, and the message of Godspell, a message of hope, love, unity, and revolution, lives on here at Maryvale!

Get your tickets now! 

Famous faces in the “OG” Godspell!

From the film:

2012 Broadway cast:


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