Personnel: Stephen Schwartz (keyboards); Darren Day, Jacqueline Dankworth, John Barr, John Barrowman, Paul Manuel, Ruthie Henshall (vocals); Mike Eaves (guitar); Dave Holmes (banjo); Brian Miller (keyboards); Tony Bourge, Geoffrey Cox (drums).
Audio Mixer: Mike Clayton .
Liner Note Author: Stephen Schwartz.
Recording information: EMI Abbey Road Studios, London, England (07/26/1993-08/07/1993).
Director: John-Michael Teblak.
Editor: Jeremy Cooper .
Photographers: Clive Barda; Simon Fowler .
Arranger: Stephen Schwartz.
When producer/executive producer John Yap, who helmed a series of studio cast recordings of major stage musicals for the British That's Entertainment Records (or TER) label in the early '90s (subsequently reissued by Jay Records), came to Godspell, he had the advantage of being able to work with the show's composer, Stephen Schwartz, who here contributes keyboards and conducts his own original arrangements. The result is that this Godspell is close to the original 1971 off-off-Broadway version, right down to its small backing band. Schwartz and Yap have retained "Beautiful City," added to the 1973 movie version and the songs the film cut from the stage version, so this is the longest version of the score ever recorded. Schwartz has also added an unnecessary five-minute "Prologue" that is inconsistent with the style of the show and adds nothing substantive. (Note that this differs from the "Opening"/"Tower of Babel" sequence Schwartz later added for the 2001 national touring cast album.) The British cast is fine, though their performances seem more correct than spirited, and might have benefited from doing the show onstage. Their British accents are apparent, but given that, as Schwartz comments in his liner notes, many of the songs' lyrics are taken from Church of England hymns, that's not inappropriate. The album does not match the quality of the original off-off-Broadway cast album or the original soundtrack album (which remains the best recorded performance of the score), but it demonstrates that, after more than 20 years, a show that seemed rooted in its time sounds as good as ever. (The Jay Records copyeditor must have been asleep, since "Turn Back, O Man" has been rendered here as "Turn Back Old Man.") ~ William Ruhlmann