You know what really bugs me about some of these posts - people seem to keep throwing Schwartz's name around. He wrote most of the music, not the book ... after
John-Michael Tebelak created the entire concept of Godspell as his master's thesis at Carnegie Mellon. In fact, most of the lyrics come directly out of the Episcopal Hymnal, not from Schwartz.
For people who do not know the history of Godspell, Tebelak came up with the idea during an Easter service at his local church. He realized that the entire spirit of the service was missing. He came up with Godspell as a way to reach the people. He wanted to build a community... show what the gospel of Matthew is really about. That is
the context and meaning of the show.
I think people really need to step back try to seperate what the writer was trying to do with the show (build community) and the particular vehicles that were used at the time (chain link fence with red ribbons) as they relate to the counter culture of the 1970s. Sure, the original included clowns, pantomime and yes, even a fence with red ribbons. Jesus had an afro... should we keep that part too?
I think Tebelak would definitley approve of updating the show each time it is presented to appeal to your particular audience. In fact, my libretto indicates just that. The libretto is used as a skeleton for the show, not a dictate, (especially from the composer). To me, Godspell is so much more than Schwartz. Don't get me wrong, I love his work; but let's keep his part in perspective in relation to Godspell.
So, in short, directors should really read the notes provided in the libretto and strive to make Godspell as real to their audiences as possible. Know your audience and you'll have a winning show.