When I was a young little dude, my older brothers and I took part in a surprisingly solid local production of GODSPELL.
We were not religious, but we were really big fans of the music and madness that exploded out of this 'new' hit musical aimed at the young of heart. Folk harmonies, vaudeville, topical humor, awesome guitar solos, and clown makeup.
Rather amazing considering it was merely the thesis project of a Harvard Graduate student -- a work cleverly designed to slip the Gospel According To St. Matthew your way when you weren't looking. His dad must have sold used cars.
Like the classic song by Simon and Garfunkel, the year of this production was a time of innocence for me. I played no role in the production outside of one of several mascots, but I performed the role well and cherished every minute of it. I could parrot any line, sing any song. I simply couldn't get enough of it. And again -- I wasn't the least bit religious.
Many fans of the musical GODSPELL weren't the biggest fans of the feature film. You see, the show was all about having a minimal set and maximum audience interaction. When the movie put that fourth wall between the audience and players -- and furthermore stuck the players roaming around an empty Manhattan -- the spell of GODSPELL was tainted.
Still, there were some interesting moments. If you've never seen the film, or haven't in ages, this sequence will both amaze you (no CGI or trick photography) as well as spook you a little on this or any anniversary of September 11th --
The ALL FOR THE BEST song suggests that the wealthy may have their 'twin' ivory towers, but really, who is the land for... the sun and the sand for... you guessed... it's all for the best. That's what the lyrics plainly suggest. Considering those towers were dropped as symbols of the wealthy, our bones are properly chilled by this filmmaker clairvoyance of sorts.
Anyway, this film introduced a new song in attempt to lure in stage fans into the cinema. The song ended the movie with the uplifting suggestion that after Christ's death the survivors and believers could... perhaps... build 'A Beautiful City'.
I remember how this new song was received by fans. It was loathed. It had a Partridge family sheen. Since I liked the Partridges, I liked it. I found it was easy to sing along with and actually rather haunting for some inexplicable reason.
It was haunting because it and the inclusion of the World Trade Towers in the film typify that aforementioned clairvoyance. I believe some of our best artists sometimes tap into larger truths and future events. They don't see the future, in my view, but sometimes they feel it coming. If that's the silliest thing you've ever heard, know that Sting was taping a concert video of 'Fragile' while the attack was happening. Consider these lyrics with that knowledge, of a song written years ealier.
Recently in New York there was a revival of GODSPELL. I didn't see it. But upon writing this post I learned they not only included 'Beautiful City' in their revival... but that they updated the lyrics. Behold --
Speaking of death --
-- you know who J.J. Abrams is, right? LOST. The new STAR TREK. The looming STAR WARS remakes. Okay, well, before all of these show stopper productions there was Jennifer Garner in ALIAS. Victor Garber played her Dad --
SPOILER: Once Jack was interrogating a nasty man and threatened to kill him if he didn't tell her where his daughter was. The man didn't care. So Jack Bristow killed him, revived him, and asked again. That time he got his answer.
You feel kinda dirty enjoying a character like that. Right? It's even weirder when this was Garber's other biggest role --
If that isn't a loss of innocence, I don't know what is. Maybe once this wave of dark shows and entertainment passes, once we accept that war doesn't preserve life, we can build ourselves... a beautiful city. A city of humanity. Worldwide.
You may say that I'm dreamer...
... but I'm not the only one.