Godspell is, in many ways, a Good Friday show. The show has no Christmas portion, nor is there any clear resurrection at the end. There is a baptism at the beginning, but, after that, the musical’s long series of parables draws Jesus closer and closer to the cross. Even if you think that Jesus is resurrected in the closing bows, the crucifixion looms large in the show. Godspell is kind of a clown show, silly and warm and ridiculous, which makes the crucifixion so much more striking at the end.
I remember the Wednesday afternoon that PJ Freebourn spent teaching Ali and Deborah the blocking for the finale. He spent hours rehearsing five minutes of the show; Ali and Deborah came out looking exhausted but visibly moved. PJ’s vision of the scene was striking and original, and the GPPC youth latched onto his vision with the kind of intensity that they had formerly reserved for Sunday evening games of Never-ending Dodgeball. The guys in the pit band played up front with me at the piano for most of the show. For the finale, we all packed up and headed to the balcony; GPPC’s pipe organ was the perfect instrument to breathe fire into this legendary musical number.
For this Good Friday, Alfred Walker and I invite you to watch this scene again or for the first time. Like GPPC itself, it’s faithful and strange and beautiful and a little messy around the edges.