Re: The History and Influence of GODSPELL
I have performed the show (keyboards) for 12 productions. I can say that every cast I've worked with loved it immensely. I've always judged how well it was coming off by the amount of sobbing in the audience during the crucifixion.
I have heard the music from a couple of updated productions. Some of it is really good, but from listening to the way the songs are written and performed, I get the impression that they are more theatre-ey than the original, which is earthier and gets the human qualities of the characters across better. I'm interested in and open to opinion on this.
I will say that the new productions which lack the Hammond organ suffer. There is nothing on Earth like that instrument. Prepare Ye is straight rock and roll, and the Hammond gives it heavy-duty passion. Ditto Light of the World, and I don't think the Crucifixion can be done adequately without it. That piece is a dirge. The Hammond gives it just the chilling feeling it needs, switching in turn to the soaring passion of Prepare Ye / Long Live God / Resurrection. This instrument is still quite popular on the Broadway stage and with traveling groups.
You don't need a 'real' Hammond, though, which is becoming more rare, plus they are heavy and require maintenance. Plenty of synths do a respectable Hammond, but caution: you have to have a Leslie tone cabinet or one of the new Leslie rotating-speaker simulators ('new' meaning it sounds like a real Leslie; the older ones don't).
This show just plumb makes people feel good. I believe, again going from much experience with the show, that it gives people hope. And it's incredibly moving and fun to do
Interesting note: I once met the head of Jews for Jesus. She told me she thinks Godspell is irreverent, but she also told me that her mother was converted from Orthodox Judaism (!!) to Christianity in part through this show.
Parting thought: I've seen people try to just play around with the show, like it isn't a real show. Don't get involved with something like that! Also, do whatever it takes to get seasoned rock and roll players for the band. Don't let a show tunes pianist do it; they don't have the rhythm and power in the left hand necessary to pull off the tunes. Trust me