Introduction:

I had never heard of the show Godspell until it was announced as the musical my senior year. So I figured, what better way to promote my final high school musical than by reviewing the original cast recording. Written by John-Michael Tebelak and composed by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell follows the adventures of Jesus Christ and his band of misfits as they form the most enduring community in world history in the form of playing games, telling stories, and singing songs, leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Since there are many versions of the show, I decided I’d review the original cast album, which excludes “Tower of Babble” and “Beautiful City” (written for the film).

1. Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

Starting with some obnoxious horns, the opener launches with some stellar vocals from David Haskell, the originator of the roles of Judas and John The Baptist. After his a capella solo, the 70s disco/gospel music kicks in and we have a full cast that gets the listener moving to the grooving disco-esqe number.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

2. Save the People

The second number features pianos and acoustic guitars, arranged in a style similar to Billy Joel. Stephen Nathan, the original Jesus, jumps into a beautiful number calling for God to “save the people” of Earth. It’s beautiful song vocally and instrumentally that is an infectious and catchy tune.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

3. Day By Day

The most popular number from the show, “Day by Day” is a slow burn. While asking for God’s aid in taking life one day at a time is a pretty topic, the song takes a bit to pick up. Once it does, it’s a pretty fun tune.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

4. Learn Your Lessons Well

An overly exuberant number about memorizing scripture and what you’re taught in Sunday school, it’s a fun tune that slides right into the show.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: B

5. Bless the Lord

The soft rock song is pretty solid. It moves pretty well and grooves along nicely. It speeds up and creates a real sense of fun in the show. As a stand-alone song, it’s not great, but it’s solid. Joanne Jonas’s vocals are solid.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: B+

6. All for the Best

This vaudeville-style duo between Stephen Nathan and David Haskell is the best song of the show. With its comical sense of timing and wonderful arrangements, the sixth number is truly a delight.

Track Rating: 10/10
Grade: A+

7. All Good Gifts

This acoustic, Gospel-inspired number is beautiful. Lamar Alford shines vocally. His prowess is truly unmatched. The song about being thankful for the gifts of God is really wonderful.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

8. Light of the World

This disco pop number is the definition of infectious. It’s just a delightful blast that does a perfect job of closing the first act, utilizing dance breaks and unparalleled energy.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

9. Turn Back, O Man

This sleezy showtune is fun gives a real 20s showgirl vibe, which is what they’re going for in the show. Sonia Manzano is incredible and her performance is wonderful. It’s song that is so catchy that you’ll be singing it forever.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

10. Alas for You

This rage-filled 70s rock number is directed as a warning to hypocrites and truly exhibits the performance of Stephen Nathan and his range. It’s a wonderful tune.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

11. By My Side

This slower, more personal number lands better than “Day by Day”, but it’s still rather dull. Overall, the performances are haunting, but the lyricism falls short.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

12. We Beseech Thee

Jeffery Mylett and company deliver a final fun and lighthearted number for the show as the company pretends to be instruments and just jam in the Gospel-Rock blend. It explifies the fun of the show.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A+

13. On the Willows

The song performed traditionally by The Band, in other version Judas, is a tragically beautiful number carried by acoustic guitars as Judas prepares his betrayal of Jesus. While David Haskell doesn’t perform the song in the show, Steve Reinhardt leads The Band in a final tune before we reach the end of our show.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

14. Finale

Stephen Nathan’s acting is once again displayed as he and the company really bring the show home and fill the audience will several different emotions at once: despair at the death of Jesus, anger at the circumstances, fear of the unknown, and hope and joy for the future. It evokes such incredible feelings and closes the show in an incredible way.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

15. Day by Day (Reprise)

While our show does not perform this number, it closes out the cast album. I’m not sure contextually why the song is placed last other than to symbolize Jesus’s resurrection and epilogue the show as they’re continuing the community, but overall, it’s not a good song in the slightest. While faster paced than the original, it’s a sad reprise that doesn’t need to in the show. I can see why they replaced it with “Beautiful City,” a much superior song.

Track Rating: 1/10

Grade: F

 

Conclusion:

The album is fun and the songs are really great. It’s a show that must be experienced in person, with a cast that works for you, and you have the chance to do so Friday, November 17th – Sunday, November 19th at the East Grand Forks Senior High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students. Showtimes are at 7:00pm Friday – Saturday and 2:00pm on Sunday.

Album Rating: 8/10

Grade: B+

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