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date: 22 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter delves into contextual issues on the film version of Godspell, focusing on a small religious revival in American popular culture in the early 1970s. Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, and Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell appeared on stage within months of one another, and Christianity appeared in other aspects of popular culture at the time, including an image of Jesus on the front of Time magazine in 1971. The producers of Godspell, however, realized that the musical was quickly at the height of its cultural moment and they decided to release it as a movie while the stage production was still in its original run in various cities, thus providing a direct competition between stage and screen versions (normally film adaptations are released after the closing of stage versions). Changes were made to the material for the film version and, like On the Town and Bells Are Ringing, there were challenges related to the location filming in New York City. Reactions to the film were polarized, but it remains an important document of a time when Jesus made more than just a cameo appearance in popular culture.

Keywords: Godspell, Stephen Schwartz, Jesus Christ Superstar, Leonard Bernstein, Mass

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