“Godspell” in Toronto Remembered

by Carol on 12/02/2014

Martin Short Memoir cover

The story of the legendary Toronto production of Godspell is covered in several places, including in Martin Short’s new memoir I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend [Link goes to Amazon.com]. Short writes about his experiences of launching his career with Godspell in his memoir and tells a funny story about Gilda Radner’s audition for the show.

Short remembers the huge gathering of actors who were auditioning. He felt pity for one girl who seemed out of place wearing loose-fitting bib overalls and her hair in goofy pigtails. For her audition song, she performed “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” Short says that she sang “…like a demented child at the peak of a sugar rush.” But when she finished, Stephen Schwartz and director Howard Sponseller jumped out of their seats to applaud the then unknown Gilda Radner. She had seen Godspell in New York, modeled her intentionally unpolished performance on the clown behavior she saw there, and won everyone’s hearts with her humor and stage presence.

Paul Shaffer memoir coverPaul Shaffer also shares delightful stories about the experience in his memoir,  We’ll Be Here For the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin’ Show-biz Saga [Link goes to Amazon.com]. Shaffer was chosen as the show’s music director after Stephen Schwartz and others heard him play at auditions. In the memoir, Shaffer also tells about being flown into New York to work on the Godspell movie soundtrack.

A new book on Godspell with Foreword by Stephen SchwartzThe Godspell Experience is a new book that covers all things Godspell. It describes the historic productions of the musical in the early 1970s, including the Toronto production.

Godspell opened at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, Canada, in May 1972, and ran for over a year to cheering crowds and nightly standing ovations. What proved most unusual about this production was the number of extraordinarily talented cast members who would go on to become well-known entertainers. In addition to Martin Short, the cast included Victor Garber who later played Jesus in the Godspell movie and has continued to enjoy a long career in movies and television (Titanic; Alias). Don Scardino (30 Rock director) played Jesus after Victor Garber left to do the Godspell movie. Also in the cast were Gilda Radner (Saturday Night Live), Andrea Martin (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Eugene Levy (American Pie), Avril Chown, Valda Aviks, Jayne Eastwood, Gerry Salsberg, and Ruby Webb.

Find a more detailed story of the Toronto production: www.musicalschwartz.com/godspell-toronto.htm. Some of the printed programs are posted at www.godspell.ca/program.htm

Read more blog posts here (and scroll down) on TheGodspellExperience.com

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