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Godspell


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Product Details

  • Actors: Victor Garber, Lynne Thigpen, Katie Hanley, David Haskell, Merrell Jackson
  • Directors: David Greene
  • Writers: David Greene, John-Michael Tebelak
  • Producers: Edgar Lansbury, Kenneth Utt
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English, Hebrew, Spanish
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Columbia/Tristar Vid
  • VHS Release Date: Aug. 11 1998
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0800137116
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,952 in Video (See Top 100 in Video)

Product Description

Amazon.ca

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

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 20 2004
Format: DVD
Someone said that this musical is horrible and if you wanted to see a Bible-based retelling of the Gospels to see Jesus Christ Superstar or !Hero. First of all, Jesus Christ Superstar is not Biblical and denies the diety of Christ (the writers aren't even Christians). !Hero is a well-intentioned try, but it's not the Bible, its paralellism (like sandwiches out of a backpack instead of bread and fish for feeding the 5000). Godspell, while at first seeming entirely bizarre and maybe even mocking, once you take a good look at it, you can see that they are really presenting the teachings of Jesus (whereas Superstar only presented the 'drama' of the story) in a fun and creative way that doesn't take away from the message. The songs are great too, although they may need some time to grow on you (because it is very very 70's).
One thing to keep in mind is that this movie is told in presentational form, where the audience is acknowledged and talked to. The actors in the movie are playing *actors*. The movie is meant to be understood that the people in the movie are *actors* acting out the stories. Once you get this, it's a very entertaining movie with great songs, dancing, and creative ways of modernizing some aspects of the Gospel without completely changing the message. I suggest getting it if you enjoy musicals in general, or if you're looking for a good alternative to Jesus Christ Superstar.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rachel K. Sreebny on March 20 2004
Format: DVD
The only reason I hesitate to give this a lower rating is I revel in how incredibly trite this film truly is. The true value of this film is New York City. In fact, after about the first few minutes you'll find yourself blocking out the gregarious costumes and horrid choreography and staring at the backdrop of Skyscrapers, parks and other wonderful landmarks and locales. From silly sing-a-longs to a sad, trumped-up garbage beast (ooh, the depth... the meaning...) this film serves as a wonderful slice of American pop culture as long as that culture is middle class and painfully white. I'm sure we've all remembered bits of the songs here and there as little earworms that catch us in the line at the deli muttering under our breath "Day by Day" or other such nonsense as the clerk behind the counter stares on in confusion trying to make change; but besides the rather ridiculous time capsule it serves as now little else can be said about this valiant effort to bring Jesus and awkward, lanky movement together. Not quite as blasphemous as Jesus Christ Superstar, but almost there, this homogenized, ridiculously suburban-serving film and its messages of love and faith are nothing more than laughable today. As one reviewer put it nicely, "it's an acquired taste" much like lutefisk or drywall. The moral of the story is: Sing praise to Jesus, but don't let clowns pretending to be Jesus sing praise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alejandra Vernon on Nov. 13 2003
Format: VHS Tape
This colorful hippie romp through the Gospel According to Matthew is a classic for kids of all ages, with its attractive, talented cast, and Richard Heimann's wonderful cinematography, with great vistas of New York City as the backdrop; many have the eerie beauty of the World Trade Center as its focus, with one scene taking place on the roof of one of the towers, with the city spread out beneath it.
The music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz are delightful, though my favorite song, "By My Side", was written by Peggy Gordon and Jay Hamburger.
The comedy is broad, and of the many parables told, the story of the Prodigal Son is hilarious, using clips from silent films to illustrate it.
The energetic, gifted ensemble have a wide range of talents, and though this film did not propel any of them to stardom, some have had good careers (mostly with TV work) since this film was released in 1973, especially Victor Garber, who is so marvelous as Jesus, with his lovely, sweet tenor voice and angular movements, Lynne Thigpen, the effervescent bundle of joy who sings "O Bless the Lord My Soul", and the very funny Jerry Sroka.
As a group, they are all equally strong in their vocal, dance, and comedic skills, and are a large part of why this film works so well.
The Last Supper scene is a great piece of staging, and I especially like the added touch of blessing the bread and wine in Hebrew, and the subtle, though gripping handling of the darker portions towards the end keeps this an excellent family film, as even very young children will enjoy the slapstick humor and clever costumes.
This film is one of the best stage to screen adaptations, and is a jubilant celebration of life and God's love.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Dunham on Aug. 19 2001
Format: VHS Tape
You have to be able to remember the 70s to truly love this trip back...today's veiwers may have lost too much of their innocence to accept the simplicity and joy of this clever retelling of the gospel according to Matthew. This is not only a parable in itself, but also a great "period" piece for those who long to go back in time a couple of hours. It made me smile, think and remember.
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Format: DVD
I love Godspell, but this film won't be for everyone. The plot is confusing, since it's basically just Jesus and his disciples acting out parables from the Bible as the plot meanders along, somewhat faithful to the Gospel of Mattthew. The cast mugs a lot, using a ton of cartoon-y voices and facial expressions, which can get annoying.
My favorite part of Godspell is the music. I love almost every song. "Save The People," "Bless The Lord," "By My Side," "Beautiful City," "Day By Day," "Turn Back, O Man" are just some of the classics that appear in this film, sung with an exciting innocence, and staged somewhat inventively, especially the "All For The Best," number.
The cast is great - fans of ABC's "Alias" television series will be shocked to see Victor Garber as an Afro'd Superman shirt singing Jesus. I know I was! The great Lynne Thigpen, sadly passed away, gets a great rollicking number in "Bless The Lord," and the rest of the cast is entertaining as well in their own ways.
So this movie may not be for everybody - if you don't think you can handle a movie based on Bible parables, then don't bother buying this. But I suggest giving this a try - I did, and it turned into one of my favorite movies.
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