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Godspell [DVD] 
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The international hit musical sensation GODSPELL comes to life in this exhilarating screen adaptation. An updated interpretation of the Gospel's lessons filled with unforgettable song and dance numbers, GODSPELL is rousing entertainment in the tradition of the classic rock operas Hair, Tommy, and Jesus Christ Superstar. John the Baptist (David Haskell) gathers a diverse band of youthful disciplesto follow and learn from the teachings of Jesus (Victor Garber, Titanic). They form a roving actingtroupe that enacts the Parables through the streets and landmarks of a brilliantly photographed contemporary New York City. High-spirited music, including the smash hit song Day by Day from Oscar(r)-winning lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Original Song Colors of the Wind and Original Score, Pocahontas, 1995) and show-stopping dance routines contribute to this superb family entertainment.
Comparing Godspell to its near-contemporaries Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair is unavoidable, but Godspell has developed its own unique following. With their thrift-store-meets-circus-performer garb, the characters in David Greene's adaptation of the popular off-Broadway production may look more like the hippies in Hair than the biblical personages of Superstar. But Godspell isn't really about the "Age of Aquarius," nor does it adopt a dark or operatic tone towards its subject matter, the Gospel according to Matthew. The mood is, instead, upbeat and uplifting (at least until the crucifixion sequence).
The film opens with youthful city dwellers from various walks of life dropping their activities to follow John the Baptist (David Haskell from the original New York production). They sing ("Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord") as he leads them into a fountain where they are (metaphorically) baptized. There they meet Jesus (Victor Garber). Frizzy hair and mime makeup aside, the handsome young Garber (Titanic, Annie) is convincing in his film debut. Once baptized, they follow him around various scenic New York locations, singing and acting out passages from the Scriptures.
The largely unknown cast is talented and charismatic, but the film is only fitfully engaging on an emotional level because only Jesus, John, and Judas (Haskell again) emerge as distinct characters. Stephen Schwartz's pleasing pop-rock score, however, helps to smooth over the rough spots, and Robin Lamont's hit version of "Day by Day" remains a highlight. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Top Customer Reviews
As with many film adaptations of plays, I the effort to take advantage of the media the essence of the play can get lost. Sure the songs are there but the filler is just that. The play as seen in its many incarnations is inspiring and makes one want to read the gospel of St. Mathew. However this version takes great effort to get through. Also based on the book "The Feast of Fools: A Theological Essay on Festivity and Fantasy".
Still this is the only recording we have to remember a play a time and a message. And the song "Day by Day" pretty much expresses the reason for the play and the reason to be part of the larger play.
I saw the original London production several times, and that initially was quite serious, but as the run continued & the cast changed, it became increasingly reliant on silly voices and TV catch-phrases, like bad pantomime. In the same way, this film's very likeable cast simply tries too hard - the frantic routines remind me of "The Monkees" TV show at times. But suddenly there are moments of great charm - notably the close harmonies of the lovely song "By My Side", always the show's musical highlight in my far-from-humble opinion.
Theologically it's very dodgy - why are John the Baptist and Judas Iscariot the same person, and doesn't all the happy-clappy, sub-hippie lovey-doveyness sit rather uncomfortably beside the uncompromising "fire-and-brimstone" preaching? And why, why, why is there no Resurrection? The stage show had Jesus leaping up to join the rest of the cast in a rousing encore of "Day by Day", but here...nothing. The cast just carries his body into the city streets. Symbolic of evangelism, perhaps, but couldn't they, say, have gone back to their everyday lives and looked up from time to time, only to see Him across the shop/office/cafe or whatever?
A missed opportunity when it was made, but worth buying for the well-sung songs, the nostalgia, seeing New York in a more innocent age, and the individual charm of the performers.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I saw this film when i was young and thought that I liked it. Having seen it again after some 42 years later, I hadn't realised how awful it was in every way. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Johnny60
A quirky Gospel musical, filmed against a background of New York. There is one well-known number ("Day by Day"). One for enthusiasts.Published 12 months ago by Dr. Richard Pennington
A very strange interpretation of Matthew's Gospel set in New York, I did not like the ending as Jesus died but didn't come back to life whichb He does in the Gospel. Very bizarre.Published 18 months ago by Donna