Opening Night of Godspell
Posted by HLPAPG
Guest Blogger: Carol de Giere, author of Defying Gravity
If any musical merited a buoyant launch this Broadway season, it was the revival of Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell. And on November 7, just after 7 pm, it happened. The festivities began as the show’s new cast bounded across the stage and even bounced skyward on the official opening night at Circle on the Square theatre. During the second act’s most energetic number, “We Beseech Thee,” the performers opened trap doors to access mini trampolines built into the stage floor, so they could hop in time to the music. Throughout the evening, the crowd wildly cheered each song and even some of the parable enactments. Hunter Parrish, who plays Jesus and normally announces the intermission, shouted out: “It’s opening night!”
Among those celebrating the show’s opening was Stephen Schwartz, who, forty years ago, wrote the infectious tunes that helped make Godspell so popular. My husband and I were fortunate to be among the 700-plus people present; we found ourselves sitting in the row behind the Schwartz family. I’ve known Stephen since the year 2000, when I starting writing a book about his creative efforts. In 2008, Applause Theatre and Cinema Books published Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked. I’ve since stayed in touch with all things Schwartz so I can write an update in a few years, as well as work on a new book on Godspell.
For me, the evening’s theme was not just joy, but trust and letting go. I knew how hard the cast and creative team worked during the thirty previews until finally the production was ready. Critics had already witnessed performances over the previous few days and would post their comments after the opening. So for those magical hours, everyone could let go of worries and just enjoy.
To prepare this revival, director Danny Goldstein trusted the source—the forty-year-old script and score—and also reached for ways to make it new. I explored the show’s original development in Defying Gravity, and now found the blend of traditional and innovative to be exciting. I loved hearing the cast enact parables using an amazing array of accents and cultural references, from Lindsay Lohan to Steve Jobs.
The previous day I had interviewed the arranger Michael Holland, whom Schwartz had trusted to layer in a fresh sound for this production and future cast album. I knew that the musicians had worked through dozens of changes as they refined the performance before the launch date.
This revival will undoubtedly help a new generation discover the joys of Godspell. Hopefully some of them will want to read about the creative process behind the original production.
About HLPAPGHal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the trade book division of Hal Leonard Corporations, publishes books on the performing arts under the imprints Hal Leonard Books, Backbeat Books, Amadeus Press, and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.
Posted on November 15, 2011, in Theatre and tagged Applause Books, Broadway, carol de giere, defying gravity, godspell, stephen schwartz, stephen schwartz biography, wicked. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.