One of the first of the rock-type religious musicals that began to emerge in the 70s, Godspell opened off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York on 17 May 1971. It had a book, by John-Michael Tebelak, which was based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, and music and lyrics by newcomer Stephen Schwartz. The cast included Stephen Nathan (Jesus) and David Haskell (Judas), and the score contained songs such as ‘All Good Gifts’, ‘Save The People’, ‘Prepare Ye The Way Of The Lord’, ‘Light Of The Best’, and ‘Day By Day’, a number that epitomises this style of production, and which became an enormous US hit in a version by the Broadway original cast. After 2, 124 performances, the show moved to a main house, the Broadhurst Theatre, for a further 527.
The cast of the London production, which stayed at Wyndham’s Theatre for nearly three years, included Julie Covington, David Essex, Marti Webb, and Jeremy Irons. A 1993 revival at the Barbican Hall in London, which starred the actress and singer Gemma Craven, was not helped by the fact that ‘Andy Crane, the blond and denimed children’s television personality signed up to play Jesus, is strikingly uncharismatic and bland - this resurrection is not good news’. Also in 1993, Los Angeles saw Godspell - Now!, a contemporary reinterpretation of the original show, based around the riots in that city in April 1992.