Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are answers to key questions about Godspell. However, the best source for answers to Godspell questions and background information can be found in the new book, The Godspell Experience, with a Foreword by Stephen Schwartz. Here are some topics the book addresses:

  • How was Godspell developed?
  • Is Godspell‘s Comic Tone Spiritually Appropriate?
  • Who Is Jesus in Godspell? Who Are the Followers?
  • What is the relationship between Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar?
  • Is Godspell compatible with Judaism
  • Is there are Resurrection in Godspell?
  • How Far Can Performing Groups Go with Their Changes?
  • How can we use “Beautiful City” in the show?
What does "Godspell" mean?
John-Michael Tebelak first named the show The Godspell, using the archaic English spelling for gospel, which means good news. Before it opened off-Broadway the “The” was dropped.
Why is the show subtitled "A Musical Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew"? Some of the parables are quotes are from Matthew, while others are from Luke, Mark, and John.
It was primarily a marketing decision. Stephen Schwartz recalls that when the show first opened and nothing was known about it, the producers wanted to “define it a little better for potential audiences, since the title didn’t immediately let people know what the show was about, and thus that ‘subtitle’ was created as an over-simplified kind of clarification.” It made sense, since proportionally more material comes from Matthew, including much of the Sermon on the Mount.
Why does John-Michael Tebelak's credit "conceived and directed by"?

Most of the text of Godspell is from the Bible and therefore the book of the musical was not “written” by John-Michael Tebelak. Also, many of the lines were developed in rehearsal by the original cast.

However the concept of the show is entirely credited to Tebelak who came up with the idea as a way to complete his master’s degree requirements for the directing program at Carnegie Mellon University. When it came time to introduce the first student cast to the show, he didn’t bring in a completed script, but rather a script with mostly Bible quotes and hymn lyrics. His style of directing was such that he wanted to draw the rest of the show from the actors in rehearsal.

Why does Jesus wear a Superman T-Shirt in many productions?

Susan Tsu, the original costume designer, remembers that the idea came up in a meeting with John-Michael Tebelak, though she no longer recalls who had the notion. It seemed to work well, and the idea stuck. She added colored suspenders and striped pants.

Stephen Schwartz notes, “I’ve seen many productions since, of course, where he wears other things. But the slightly comic self-awareness of the Superman shirt, plus its colorful nature, still makes it seem to me the most successful of the Jesus costumes I’ve seen.”

Why wasn't the Prologue recorded on the original album?
Answer from Stephen Schwartz: “The Prologue was not recorded because we wanted to make it an album with pop cross-over potential, and I felt starting with the long piano-only and essentially theatrical Prologue would hurt that. Whether or not I was right, the album as you know did become a significant cross-over hit.”
Why wasn't the Prologue recorded on the original album?
Answer from Stephen Schwartz: “The Prologue was not recorded because we wanted to make it an album with pop cross-over potential, and I felt starting with the long piano-only and essentially theatrical Prologue would hurt that. Whether or not I was right, the album as you know did become a significant cross-over hit.”

Learn more about Godspell composer Stephen Schwartz by clicking here.