Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

Do you ever watch an older movie and wonder whatever happened to the cast?

Last week, for whatever reasons, I decided to watch Godspell. You know, the religious movie for the Pepsi generation.

GodspellIt’s the one set in New York City with deserted streets and building tops where the cast dances and sings about the Gospel of Matthew. It is a little quirky with people dressed in tee shirts and jeans and suspenders. Jesus has a huge afro and clown paint around his eyes. John the Baptist wears a multi-colored morning coat.

People are happy and incredibly intune with each other. It’s a hippy version of the Messiah story that still ends with Jesus dying but being with us. It is a very 60s kind of thing.

When I watched it this time, I finally understood how one could have a personal relationship with Jesus. He was there holding hands with his disciples, singing and laughing. It was natural for these people to do that with the master. I remember people in college talking about having that kind of relationship and it made me wonder how such a thing could happen with an onipotent being like God or Jesus.

But there was Victor Garber, looking so young and beautiful. His eyes simply captured a person. Even now, 40 years later, Garber is still handsome. Maybe you know him from Sleepless in Seattle as Tom Hank’s brother-in-law or as Jack Bristow from Alias. But now I have this picture of baby-faced adult Jesus in my head thanks to Victor. I loved how credible he made the character. He was Jesus but still human at different points, sweet without being sickening. That is hard to do.

Godspell ParkAnother actor I recognized was Lynn Thigpen. She was great. I knew her from the old children’s program Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego​? She played the Chief who was always trying to find super thief, Carmen Sandiego, with the help of the pre-teen contestants. Lynn played that role a little crazy and over the top. But she had other roles where she played it serious such as in the TV show The District. Sadly. Thigpen died of an aneurism in 2003 but her memory lives on as the name of a huge grade school in Joliet.

To me, the biggest cast member is the city of New York. They were able to close off sections for short times of filming. One dance was done on the top of the World Trade Center just after construction had been completed. Another takes place in a deserted mansion filled with antique furniture. There is the fountain scene and the entire time in Central Park that amazes me for being so deserted. We get to see the beauty of New York without the distraction of people.

It is a simple movie about complex ideas. I planned to allow our youth group members to watch this movie. I also realized that I was going to have to stop it after each segment to explain what was being taught, such as during the scene discussing the beatitudes. It may not stand the test of time as Jesus Christ Superstar has done but it is still very interesting to watch.

Here is the best song I remember from this movie.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

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