Remembering Lamar Alford, David Haskell, and Jeffrey Mylett

by Carol on 12/04/2014


A new book on Godspell with Foreword by Stephen SchwartzLamar Alford, David Haskell, and Jeffrey Mylett are all featured in photos and text in the new book The Godspell Experience.  In this blog post I’ll share a few stories and comments from people who knew them, and describe what happened to them after Godspell.

album cover for 40th anniversaryHearing the original cast album for Godspell and the movie soundtrack is a good way to remember them. CD version Godspell: 40th Anniversary Celebration OR Downloadable digital version Godspell (The 40th Anniversary Celebration) [+Digital Booklet]

Lamar Alford

(October 11, 1944 – March 29, 1991)
Lamar Alford performed in Godspell in New York and was well loved by his fellow cast members. His powerful voice filled the theater as he sang “All Good Gifts.” Alford later wrote and composed more than a half dozen plays and musicals.

A comment about Alford written by the Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee, Pastor, Immanuel Missionary Baptist Church, reveals some of Alford’s experience and character after Godspell. “Mr. Alford, in addition to going on to other memorable performances on Broadway, returned to his alma mater, Morehouse College to complete his degree and was hired by the college as the first, and as of yet, only Dramatist-in-Residence. In this role, Alford created the King Players of the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel. He wrote/scored and directed plays that received national attention and were reviewed positively in The New York Times.

“Alford’s greatest contribution as a performer was his ability to teach. He had a great influence on students who participated in his plays in all capacities, students like me, who had no desire to perform professionally, but who enjoyed the experience at college, and got much more than we’d bargained for as we were pushed, motivated, harassed, yelled at, and loved by Lamar’s brutal honesty and radically inclusive compassion.”

David Haskell

(June 4, 1948 – August 30, 2000)
David Haskell performed in all early productions of Godspell: the college production, Café La MaMa, Cherry Lane, and the movie version. He originated the role of John the Baptist/Judas in the show and helped set the tone of the character. His wife Jeanne Lange notes that he was the calm one on stage: “You have to have somebody to be grounded around all this.” In terms of his relationship to Jesus, he was, in Lange’s terms, “the negative to the positive. He was the down to the up.”

But he was also sometimes flamboyant. “He was like the Ringmaster of the circus,” recalls costume designer Susan Tsu who watched him during rehearsals for the college production. She gave him a circus-suited tailcoat and added things to it like stripes and military epilates.

Haskell and Lange expected he’d receive movie offers after the Godspell movie’s release. “He looked like a movie star, and I thought ‘My God, somebody’s going to notice,’ Lange said. “There were a couple of little offers that came in, but his agents were expecting such big things, so they turned things down. And then an offer came in wanting David to go over to Spain or Italy and do a Western with Clint Eastwood. His agents said you can’t do that,” so he missed that chance.

He and Lange relocated to California where Haskell found some work in television and was a regular on the TV show Santa Barbara from 1985 to 1986. He eventually transitioned into sales for a manufacturing company.

At the age of fifty-two he succumbed to brain cancer. Jeanne Lange relates the story of what happened as David slipped out of consciousness. She explains that his Godspell family gathered at his bedside and sang to him before he passed while their daughter, Alexandra, witnessed the love fest. “When David was moved to Intensive Care Unit, he was the only patient in Motion Picture and Television Hospital in ICU, so they basically gave us free run of the place. So between our Godspell friends and our church friends we had 20 to 25 people that were there for 48 hours, eating pizza, singing Godspell songs, telling jokes. Stephen Reinhardt sang ‘On the Willows’ holding David’s hand. It was the most incredible dying experience, for him to be surrounded… He was supposed to die within a few hours; 28 hours later, we’re all sitting there…we reach the part where we were laughing. Leave it to David to put on the show. Leave it to David to miss his curtain and make the rest of us hang out waiting. It just became a wonderful thing.”

Jeffrey Mylett

(June 8, 1949 – May 7, 1986)
Ohio native Jeffrey Mylett was enrolled in the Carnegie Mellon University drama program shortly before Tebelak developed Godspell. Although he wasn’t in the college production, Tebelak invited him to join the cast for the Café La MaMa production and then for the final version of the show at Cherry Lane Theatre.

As is explained in The Godspell Experience, Stephen Schwartz saw Mylett perform at La MaMa. Mylett’s stage personality helped inspire Schwartz to write the song “We Beseech Thee” that Mylett would debut at Cherry Lane.

“Jeffrey made the energizer bunny look lethargic,” comments fellow cast member Robin Lamont. Schwartz agrees and says “He was the highest energy character. Jeffrey was almost elfin….There was something very leprechauny about Jeffrey, and playful.” The lively and cheerful “We Beseech Thee” reflects Mylett’s energy and personality.

Mylett enjoyed stage and film success with the Godspell stage production in New York and Los Angeles, and then in the film version.
Mylett’s considerable nimbleness and acting talents won him the understudy role for star Doug Henning in The Magic Show on Broadway. Mylett stepped into the magician’s leading role when Henning was on vacation (as “Jeff” rather than as “Doug”), and also played him on tour.

“He always had a smile on his face. He was always up for anything, and he had a great laugh.”—Marley Sims

Mylett also appeared in other stage roles and in the films Money Talks (1972), Brewster’s Millions (1985) and My Man Adam (1985). Mylett died on May 7, 1986 but his memory lives on in the Godspell film and other films.

Watch the movie trailer to see David Haskell and Jeffrey Mylett.

Return to The Godspell Experience blog

 

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