''Godspell'' is a musical rendition of [[Literature/TheFourGospels the Christian Gospel]]--primarily the book of Matthew but also some selections from Luke and one from John--with a contemporary soundtrack and aesthetic. It was created by John-Michael Tebelak, who wrote it as his master's thesis at Carnegie Mellon University, but after its (successful) debut, its producers hired an up-and-coming composer named Creator/StephenSchwartz to rework the music. It was Schwartz' second break-out success (after ''Theatre/{{Pippin}}'', which he worked on alongside Creator/BobFosse), winning him two Grammys and paving the way for further successes, such as some of the Creator/DreamWorks cartoons, the movie ''Film/{{Enchanted}}'', and the musical ''Theatre/{{Wicked}}''.

The musical mostly uses lyrics from pre-existing Episcopal hymns, but with completely new melodies composed by Schwartz (plus one song from a fellow student of Tebelak and member of the original cast); it also showcases many of the more famous parables from the Gospels. The story is told in a light-hearted, almost vaudevillean style; indeed, in the original stage production and TheMovie version, the characters dressed up as clowns, symbolizing their conversion. From a production standpoint, it can be run with a ''very'' small cast (four or five instrumentalists and ten actors), and the stage direction quite vague: each production is advised to come up with their own settings, costumes and contexts for the show, and ad libbing and audience participation is encouraged. Long story short: this is an easy production for theatres of any size, quality and shape to take and make their own (which is part of why it's been financially successful). Finally, it isn't particularly preachy, which helps keep it accessible to all audiences.

It was released the year after the ''other'' 70's-rock-musical-about-Jesus ''Music/JesusChristSuperstar'', and definitely benefited from the resultant hype; furthermore, it lacked the DarkerAndEdgier quality that put a lot of Christians off the [[AndrewLloydWebber Lloyd Webber]] offering (if anything, ''Godspell'' is LighterAndSofter than the way the Bible is preached in many churches!). One of its songs, ''Day By Day'', was released as a single and achieved some success that way; it's toured about a gazillion times; there are a number of cast recordings out; [[Film/{{Godspell}} and there was a movie in 1973]].

In 2011, a revival opened on Broadway starring [[{{Weeds}} Hunter]] [[SpringAwakening Parrish]], [[{{Grease}} Lindsay Mendez]], [[Series/OrangeIsTheNewBlack Uzo Aduba]], [[HannahMontana Anna Maria]] [[CampRock Perez de Taglé]], and more (with [[Film/{{HighSchoolMusical}} Corbin Bleu]] eventually replacing Parrish).

[[Film/{{Godspell}} For tropes concerning the 1973 film, click here.]]
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!!''Godspell'' provides examples of the following tropes:

* BadassBaritone: John/Judas as compared to {{TenorBoy}}s Jesus, Jeffrey, and Lamar (Herb barely sings at all unless other cast members' lines in Light of the World are reassigned to him).
* BadGirlSong: "Turn Back, O Man"
* {{Bishonen}}: In the 2011 revival, Jesus was played by [[http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2011/11/06/arts/06GODSPELL1/06GODSPELL1-articleLarge.jpg Hunter]] [[http://www.manhairstyles.net/resimler/hunter-parrish-0.jpg freaking]] [[http://www.iballer.com/malecelebs/parrish_hunter/images/hunter_parrish_6_jpg.jpg Parrish]].
* BookEnds: The face painting and face paint removal.
* BreakingTheFourthWall: The song ''Light of the World'' at the end of Act I could be interpreted as an example of this.
** The performance script encourages this interpretation, suggesting that the cast invite audience members onto the stage or serve grape juice and bread to the entire audience. The point is that the audience get to share the disciple's meal.
** The ''entire show'' has potential for this. Most good productions run on ThrowItIn and AscendedFanon.
* BSODSong: "Alas for You". Jesus is ''not'' a happy camper.
* CallToAdventure: John's horn and ''Prepare Ye'' drag the cast from their mundane lives to become Disciples.
* ChristianRock: Along with Theatre/JesusChristSuperstar, this play led the way for Christian rock to become a popular music genre.
* CompositeCharacter: The actor who represents Judas also takes on the John the Baptist role, in contrast to the other apostles who take on various philosophers who this trope also applies to. It also sets him up as Jesus' Lancer, who assists him with his teaching while still learning himself [[spoiler: which makes his eventual betrayal all the more painful for the both of them]]. Of course some people get confused or desperate for parts and either treat them as two separate characters or have them played by different actors, which is CompletelyMissingThePoint.
** The other roles are composites of various disciples, sinners, etc. encountered by Jesus in the gospels.
* CounterpointDuet: "All For The Best". There's a semi-example with "Tower of Babble", with eight counterpoint lines.
* DarkReprise: "All for the Best"
* FakeOutOpening: The play begins with an ensemble number, "The Tower of Babble", in which Socrates, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Leonardo da Vinci, Edward Gibbon, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Buckminster Fuller argue about philosophy.
* {{Filk}}: InvertedTrope. Most filk songs set new lyrics to someone else's melody; Schwartz took ''lyrics'' from a hymnal and wrote new music.
* GospelRevivalNumber: A lot. "Day By Day", "Bless the Lord", "Light of the World", "Beautiful City", and "We Beseech Thee" all go gospel.
* HakunaMatata: "All For The Best" points out that even though life might suck, there's more to life than material wealth and that it will all even out in the end.
* HippieJesus: ''Godspell'' is practically ''defined'' by having Jesus and his followers in hippie-ish/clownish clothing.
** This one's been Jossed, however; Stephen Schwartz has claimed that they were merely supposed to be clowns, not flower children. If they looked like hippies, in the original production and the movie, that's probably because it was the seventies. Even then Schwartz says the movie's use of hippie clowns was outdated by the that point.
* IrrelevantActOpener:
** The Act 1 opener, "Tower of Babble", is often confused as this, but is far from it. The song basically has most of the cast representing various philosophers (which change depending on the production) before singing in eight-part counterpoint as they fight amongst eachother. It is supposed to represent what the community is like before the arrival of the Jesus-figure, that they are too entrenched in their own beliefs and philosophies to get along. Over the course of the first act they are slowly brought together into a loving and tight knit community. Stephen Schwartz is often frustrated that the number frequently is cut by directors, and it doesn't help that the song was cut from both the original cast album (as it was intended as more of a pop album than a traditional musical recording) and the film (it is more of a stage number and probably wouldn't have worked well on film anyway).
** Depending on the production, the reprise of "Learn Your Lessons Well" can also be this -- if you don't have the rights to "Beautiful City" and you need another solo for one of your cast members. Then again the script does say to treat it as an Entr'acte rather than as a proper musical number.
* TheJester: Jesus is interpreted as one of these, teaching his message through humor and clowning. The others get in on the act, and he paints their faces to mark them as his followers.
* TheLancer: Judas.
* LyricalDissonance: An arguably intentional example; the lyrics to the song 'Turn Back, O Man' are about how people ought to turn back on their sins ("forswear thy foolish ways") and open their way towards God[[note]] though, of course, it is actually sung to Jesus[[/note]]. However, the actual music makes it sounds like a sexy seduction song, and often the one singing it will go into the audience and sweet-talk its audience members -- in fact, the actress who performed the number in both the original stage production and the film deliberately modeled her performance on ''Mae West''.
* MassiveMultiplayerEnsembleNumber: You need at least eight voice parts/people to do "Tower of Babble", and they're all singing at once.
** The finale of "Long Live God/Prepare Ye/Day by Day".
* MinimalistCast: Zigzagged. Godspell's smallest cast is 10 people, but parts can be chopped up and farmed out to support much larger ensembles. This is part of why it's popular for schools or community theatres.
* MoodWhiplash: The play reimagines the New Testament as [[LighterAndSofter a quirky, lighthearted comedy about the formation of a community]], rife with {{Slapstick}} and vaudeville routines. Things take a sudden turn in Act 2 when Jesus encounters the Pharisees in "Alas For You". From there, Jesus is betrayed and crucified just as in the source material, and his disciples can only watch helplessly as the man who brought happiness and meaning into their lives bleeds to death in front of them.
* MotorMouth: Thomas Aquinas in the "Prologue/Tower of Babble" and both John/Judas and Jesus in "All for the Best".
* {{New Age Retro Hippie}}s: Some productions, and you can bet they're proud of it! (Not quite as retro at the time, but...)
* MovieBonusSong: "Beautiful City"
* OpeningChorus: "Tower of Babble"
* OriginalCastPrecedent: A lot of productions follow certain guidelines: the cast is made of five women, three men, a Judas and a Jesus; Jesus wears a Superman t-shirt; whoever sings "Turn Back, O Man" [[LadyInRed wears]] [[ColorCodedForYourConvenience red]]; and Judas has kind of a ringmaster look.
** The disciples [[NoNameGiven didn’t have names]] in the original stage play, so the actors went by their own names. As a result, the names of the first cast became the characters’ official names in the play. For those curious: Sonia ("Turn Back, O Man"), Peggy ("By My Side"), Robin ("Day by Day"), Joanne ("Bless The Lord"), Jeffrey ("We Beseech Thee"), Gilmer ("Learn Your Lessons Well"), Herb ("Light of the World"), Lamar ("All Good Gifts").
*** Often, the actors playing these parts won't go by these names, but by ''their'' own names in a continuation of the tradition (with lines altered accordingly).
* PassionPlay
* PatterSong: "Tower of Babble" and "All for the Best".
* PleaseDontLeaveMe: "By My Side" has the woman who Jesus saved from being stoned begging Him to let her follow Him. It's especially poignant in that Judas takes money to betray Jesus in the middle of the number, foreshadowing his death.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: "Alas For You".
* ShooOutTheClowns: In this case, Jesus paints the faces of the cast with clown makeup when they decide to follow him, and they wear it for most of the show, until he removes it during the "last supper" scene immediately preceding his death.
* ShownTheirWork: Jesus speaks the Passover Seder prayer in Hebrew. Most Christians forget that Jesus was a ''rabbi'' and The Last Supper was a ''Passover Seder''.
* SketchComedy: The bulk of the show, apart from the musical numbers.
* SlapstickKnowsNoGender: The slapstick fight.
* TheSongBeforeTheStorm: Subverted with "On the Willows". Light and sweet, before the heartbreak of the crucifixion.
** The music, at least. The lyrics are from Psalm 137, about the Babylonian captivity of the Jews.
** The production after ''All for the Best'' becomes increasingly more serious. ''Alas for You'' marks the end of all buffoonery in the production, and takes a markedly darker tone.
* TriumphantReprise: "Prepare Ye/Day by Day".
* TruckDriversGearChange: "We Beseech Thee" goes up a whole tone after the "boom chick" interlude.
* UnexplainedAccent: Many, many, many. Perhaps the most offbeat is that Abraham speaks with a heavy Brooklyn accent -- and it's ''written into the script''.
* WhamLine: "Then the man they called Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests, and said "What will you give me to betray Him to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver -- and from that moment, he began to look out for an opportunity to betray Him." (Matthew 26:14-16, KJV) The line signifies the transition from John to Judas in the musical.
** In the film, the final line of the speech is accented with a percussive sound not unlike DramaticThunder.
** "This is the beginning."...of the end. Jesus says this to tell the community that was built during Act 1 that he's going to leave them to see if they retained the lessons learned from his teachings. And it all goes downhill from there, ending in His Crucifixion.
** The line right before "On the Willows": "And I tell you I shall never again drink from the fruit of the vine until I drink it again with you in the Kingdom of my Father." Jesus then says goodbye to the rest of the cast.
* YeOldeButcheredeEnglishe: All the songs, and maybe the entire play.
* YouHaveGotToBeKiddingMe: Uttered by the Pharisee (traditionally played by Gilmer) when the tax collector is preferred by God.
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