Original Soundtrack

Godspell [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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Godspell, the second musical of the early '70s to be based on the life of Jesus Christ (following Jesus Christ Superstar, which hit the record racks, but not the stage first), was something of a sleeper, opening off-off-Broadway in May 1971, with an original cast album that belatedly became a big success in 1972 after "Day By Day" was released as a single and hit the Top Ten. By then, the show had moved to off-Broadway and was well on its way to a run that would exceed 2,500 performances (and eventually reach Broadway itself). Bell Records, a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, had released that cast album, and the film company quickly put a movie version into production. Happily, composer Stephen Schwartz retained musical control, and the film, other than using various deserted New York City locations as its set, was quite faithful to the stage version. Five of the ten ensemble performers were retained from the original cast, along with all four of the original musicians, and Schwartz produced the music, as he had on the cast album. As such, the soundtrack album offered him the opportunity to improve upon the cast album, and he did. The key casting change was the replacement of Stephen Nathan, who played Christ onstage, with Victor Garber, a talented young singer/actor who would go on to a distinguished stage career that would include two Stephen Sondheim musicals, Sweeney Todd and Assassins. Garber was a stronger singer than Nathan, and that improved things noticeably. Meanwhile, David Haskell stayed on in the dual role of John the Baptist and Judas, and, naturally, Robin Lamont got to repeat her triumph singing "Day By Day." Though Joanne Jonas was an original cast member, she had not sung "Turn Back, O Man," which she here inherited from Sonia Manzano and did well with. With a bigger budget, Schwartz was able to augment the original musicians using key studio personnel such as lead guitarist Hugh McCracken (on "Prepare Ye [The Way of the Lord]") and keyboard player Paul Shaffer, along with a horn section and half dozen strings. As a result, he was better able to realize the score's pop tendencies than he had on the cast album. Two songs, "Learn Your Lessons Well" and "We Beseech Thee," were cut, along with a reprise of "Day By Day," and one, "Beautiful City," was added. So, this was a less complete version of the score, but it was much better performed and produced, making this a rare instance in which the soundtrack album is better than the original cast album. (Though the film was not a commercial success and took 25 years to get to video, the soundtrack album reached the Top 40 and stayed in the charts for almost a year.)

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