Godspell began as John-Michael Tebelak’s master’s thesis at Carnegie Mellon University in 1970. He produced it at CMU with a cast of students, many of whom stayed with the show during its two week run at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City. Its La MaMa run attracted off-Broadway producers, who brought in CMU alum Stephen Schwartz to write a new score. Much of the lyrics remained from the Episcopal hymnal and Schwartz kept one song from the original: “By My Side,” written by CMU students Jay Hamburger and Peggy Gordon.
Godspell as we know it premiered at the Cherry Lane Theatre in 1971. Because of the crowds it drew, the production moved to the Promenade Theatre where it played for five years, then transferred for an additional 527 performances on Broadway. In 1973, Godspell was adapted into a film, co-written by John-Michael Tebelak and starring Victor Garber.
In addition to many productions across the country and abroad, Godspell was revived on Broadway in 2011. Some revisions were made to the book of the musical to update its cultural references, which are reflected in the script that will be gracing OTC’s mainstage in January.