Bits and Pieces
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Articles from the Toronto Star:
(Eventually these articles will be worked
into the rest of the site)
March 3, 1972
Hit rock musical booked for the Alex
by Sid Adilman
Star staff writer
Ed Mirvish has booked Godspell, the hit Broadway rock musical based on the
Gospel according to Saint Matthew, for six weeks with options that could take
it right through the summer at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Slated to open in
late May with either an imported cast or one drawn locally, Godspell will be
directed by its writer John-Michael Tebelak who did the New York version that
has been running for a year. There are also productions in London, Paris,
Hamburg, Melbourne, Washington and Boston.
March 14, 1972
Equity auditions for the local version of Godspell, a rock musical opening June
1 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre are being held March 21, with those for non
professionals the following day. Call 925-3757. Singer-actors between the ages
of 16 and 25 are needed. Rehearsals begin April 26.
March 23, 1972
After four years, Jeff Hyslop has surrendered the Gilbert role in Anne of Green
Gables because dancing-only work was offered him in the other two Charlottetown
Festival musicals this season. Hyslop wants more acting-singing jobs. This week,
he was one of 280 hopefuls auditioning for 12 parts in the rock musical Godspell
opening June 1 at the Royal Alexandra theatre. Meanwhile, festival artistic
director Alan Lund, who "discovered" Hyslop in Vancouver during a 1968 talent
search, is holding immediate auditions for a new Anne co-star. His need is
urgent. Anne returns to O'Keefe Centre April 10 for a week.
April 13, 1972
Rock Musician to play Jesus
Victor Garber, a member of the defunct Toronto musical group The Sugar Shoppe,
will play Jesus in the Broadway religious rock musical Godspell due at the Royal
Alexandra Theatre for previews May 26. Signed also are Jane Eastwood, the girl
in Don Shebib's movie Goin' Down The Road, local Hair cast members Avril Marie
Chown and Jo Ann Brooks, and Valda Aviks, Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, Martin
Short, Rudy Webb and Gerry Salsberg.
The play immediately before Godspell at the Royal Alex was The
Marquise by Noel
Coward, direct from London, starring Glynis Johns, Richard Todd and Barry
Sinclair. It played from May 8th to May 20th.
May 26, 1972 ... big article
May 27, 1972
One for the Book - Nora McCabe
Overheard at intermission in the bar of the Royal Alexandra Theatre at Thursday
night's preview performance of the hit musical Godspell were two members of the
clergy enthusing about the show.
Said one reverend gentlemen to the other: "It's a great show-but of course I
read the original book a long time ago."
Rev. A. L. Griffith of Deer Park United Church, like most ministers present,
liked the musical.
"I've been preaching the gospel for 20 years," he said, "Godspell opens people's
minds to the possibility that the gospel contains a message of joy. The message
has been there for years but few have discovered it."
Regular performances begin June 1.
May 30 ... Big Schwartz article
June 1 ... negative letter to the editor
June 2 ... negative review (already posted to Reviews
June 2 ... Jesus freaks article
June 3 ... positive review from Religious editor, plus Max Putnam article
June 6 ... response to negative letter to editor
June 9 ... ad
"An extravagant musical performed by an exceptionally brilliant cast" George
Anthony, Toronto Sun
"All Toronto is in love with Godspell" Pat Murray, CFTO-TV
Started using tag line" Godspell - Ask Anyone Who's Seen It
June 17 ... show that replaced it was subscription show "The
starring Theodore Bikel
June 19 ... Two ministers Praise article
Toronto talent recruited for films on 'Jesus' musicals
Sid Adilman's Eye on Entertainment
Six local performers have been recruited for Hollywood movie versions of North
America's hottest religious rock musicals. Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell,
both going before cameras this summer.
Superstar director Norman Jewison has signed three city dancers. Jeff Hyslop who
was Gilbert for five years in Anne of Green Gables. Leon Granger and Vera
Biloshisky. They auditioned privately for Jewison recently in New York, on
recommendation of Toronto's Rob Iscove who has been hired to choreograph the
movie to be made in Israel. Victor Garber who plays Jesus, isn't the only Royal
Alexandra Godspell cast member slated for the screen. Paul Shaffer, the show's
22-year-old musical conductor, heard yesterday that director David Greene doing
the film in New York wants him off camera. Is all this just coincidence? Well,
remember that Jewison and Greene worked here at CBC-TV for a decade and still
have strong sentiments about Toronto.
June 23 ... article about Garber being signed to movie
July 4 ... ovation Jewish letter to editor
July 8 ... letter to editor praising show interpretation
July 8 ... another positive review from religious editor
July 10 ... response to negative letter of 8th
July 11 ... another response
July 12 ...
About Town - Lotta Dempsey
Heavenly Blossoms: When Casey Messinger, who has been chief of group sales for
Godspell at the Royal Alexandra Theatre was in Scarborough Centenary Hospital
recently, a box of flowers arrived with the card: From Jesus Christ and Cast.
The young nurse who opened the box said she had heard many patients send
messages to Jesus Christ, but the first time she'd seen one from Him.
July 15 ... mostly negative responses about Baum's positive review
July 21 ... article about old man singing with Godspell cast.
July 29 ... not Godspell, but good article about lack of belief in Canadian arts
July 29 ... good Valda Aviks article, with RECIPES!!!
Godspell To School: Three hundred primary school teachers holding a summer
workshop at Morse St. Public School took the afternoon off recently for a
matinee of Godspell at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. They were so impressed they
invited actress Valda Aviks and director Howard Sponseller to visit them. The
show people stayed an hour answering questions on everything from religion to
make up, topping it off by singing Day by Day and By My Side from the how. The
teachers gave a donation to the Canadian Cancer Society in the name of the cast
as a thank you. Teacher Bob Henderson organized the event.
Laughter, joy called 'spiritual medicine'
People should be able to laugh at themselves and find joy in religion. Rev. John
Furry said at Walmer Rd. Baptist Church yesterday.
"Laughing at ourselves helps us to keep thinks in proper perspective." Furry
said. "The problem is sometimes that we take ourselves too seriously and do not
take God seriously enough."
Furry said laughter and joy is a spiritual medicine which can save people from
the besetting sin of pride.
Jesus was like the clown portrayed in Godspell, the rock musical now playing in
Toronto. Furry said, "We betray and misrepresent him when we present him as a
killjoy, a wet blanket, a party-pooper, a somber dead beat."
Thurs., Aug. 31 Ad ... last four show (Thur., Fri. Sat. Sun?)
Sept. 11 ... wicked city
Rock show improves
GODSPELL REVISITED? Godspell, the rock-gospel clown-show version of the life of
Jesus Christ, has now moved into the Bayview Playhouse. The production in the
smaller theatre is in almost every way an improvement upon the push, manic, cold
version which opened at the Royal Alexandra at the end of June.
I still find the material itself utterly resistible, a grasping rip-off of Paul
Sill's Story Theatre technique, but the actual performance is much more relaxed
and ingratiating in the intimate confines of the Playhouse.
The company still suffers from the frenetic __ style of the production, but a
number of performers-Valda Aviks, Andrea Martin and the charming Jayne
Eastwood-have managed to emerge individually from the consuming frenzy.
The most significant improvement of all, apart from a lower decibel level, is
Don Scardino, who now plays Jesus. A less stylish singer perhaps than Victor
Garber his predecessor, Scardino nonetheless had an easy, almost off-hand
performing style which safely removes ___ from the pretentious ____ ___ which is
Godspell's most oppressive feature.
Sept 16 & 19 --- recasting notice
Youngsters laugh at Godspell
Family fun by Martha Guran
Godspell is still alive (after it's long run at the Royal Alex) and I do mean
alive and leaping at the Playhouse Theatre, 1605 Bayview Ave., south of Eglinton
And if it doesn't leaving you laughing, crying, tapping, clapping and enjoying
every pulsating minute, there's something wrong with your emotions.
Admission is slightly higher than most of the show's I've recommended in the
past. But it's worth it. Prices range from $5 to $8.50. However, if you get a
few neighbourhood families together, with plenty of children, you'll get a
lower group rate. Call 364-0597 for details about show dates.
Children under 8 years of age won't get too much out of it. But the older
youngsters (whether they've any knowledge of proverbs or not) will find
themselves compelled to read the Bible once they've seen Godspell.
It has that kind of effect. My young companion, Daphne Schofield, knew the story
of Noah and the ark. The rest, she said she'd look up.
Daphne laughed throughout the whole show. Yet in the beginning she wondered how
she could possibly enjoy a show that portrayed God as a laughing stock.
But she found there were pensive moments too. Moments to think about Jesus and
his preachings. And she absorbed the snappy lessons. I counted 28 parables.
There were probably more.
Simple ones, like the story of the Good Samaritan, the mustard see, and chastity
of mind and body. There's one against anger, for loving your enemies and on
And even though some parodied and exaggerated modern situations, it was done
with effervescent humor.
Jesus is exuberantly played by youthful Don Scardino who really sweats it out
and projects the clowny image to the fullest. The rest of the predominately
female cast portray the children. They leap about, dancing, singing and miming
during the two-hour production.
There's never a lull except during the Last Supper and the agonizing
crucifixion. Both are very touching scenes.
It's a production no one should miss and it will run for a few more weeks, so
try and take the family.
Tues. October 17
Godspell re-opening next week
The cast of Godspell will be back performing the religious rock musical next
Tuesday night at the Playhouse Theatre on Bayview Ave., despite an explosion
which damaged the building on Sunday afternoon.
"We've been assured that the debris (thought to have been caused by an explosion
in the boiler room) can be cleaned up by then," Marlene Smith, a spokesman for
the show said yesterday.
It was originally thought that the theatre would have to be closed for two
The cast of Godspell, sidelined until next Tuesday by an explosion which put the
Playhouse Theatre on Bayview Ave. out of action, for a week, will perform at the
Church of St. Michael and All Angels, St. Clair Ave. W. at Wychwood, Sunday at
plus ad saying "WE'RE BACK IN BUSINESS"
David Mann, owner of the Playhouse Theatre on Bayview Ave., though retired from
business, has been personally supervising repairs to the building damaged a week
ago by an explosion to ensure everything will be ready for the reopening tonight
of Godspell. "The Playhouse is still for sale," Mann said yesterday. "But only
when Godspell leaves. It's worthwhile and it should be allowed to go on." Mann
hasn't had many offers for the site during the year it has been on the block.
Understudy Robin White has succeeded Don Scardino in the lead role, with Victor
Garber the original Toronto Jesus, due back in a month after filming of the
movie Jesus Christ Superstar is completed in New York ... Meanwhile Hope Garber,
Victor's singer-actress-commentator mother is writing a pornographic novel aimed
at the U.S. market.
Nov. 24 ... article about Toronto mentions Godspell
Several members of the local Godspell cast are moonlighting as extras on
Columbia's movie The Last Detail or using days off to visit New York for
replacement auditions of the Broadway musical Grease. Meanwhile, Martin Short
will host CBC-TV's teenage variety series, Right On, which debuts in January.
Jan.20 .. mention of Jayne Eastwood in YPT's Dandy Lion
In its ninth month at the Playhouse Theatre on Bayview, Godspell last week set a
new house record of $24,000. Godspell, which opened at the Royal Alexandra
Theatre, marks its first anniversary in Toronto June 1. But that week, it will
lose four key performers, including Gordon Thomson who plays Jesus.
Thomson is set for Stratford's Avon production of A Month in the Country. Also
leaving is Andrea Martin. She'll head for the Charlottetown Festival.
Replacement auditions are being held in mid-April.
Meanwhile, the movie version has opened in New York to nice notices. Its star,
Victor Garber, who originated the lead in Toronto, is now in New York for an
off-Broadway revival of Ghosts.
Movie of Godspell opens here April 12
Viktor Garber, who played the role of Jesus in Godspell, the soft-rock version
of St. Matthew's Gospel, when it opened at the Royal Alexandra Theatre a year
ago, stars again as the Christ figure in the film version which opens here on
New York critics have praised the movie, but convey the impression that it fails
to measure up to the stage production.
The are unanimous, however in their acclaim of Garber's portrayal of Christ as
the gentle, very vulnerable "clown" who reverses this world's values with His
The Toronto stage production is still running, but subsequent replacements for
Garber have lacked his ability to walk the fine line between joyous comedy and
straight slapstick, critics say.
The entire cast, in fact, seems to have overlooked the fact that Jesus as a
clown is believable, Jesus as a buffoon is not.
April 7, 1973 ... another recasting notice plus ad with "Now Thru May 6"
April 21 ... article about 2nd City ... says Gilda and Jerry were still in the
Actor considers two offers
Jeff Hyslop, who quit the role of Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables a season ago,
is back from filming Norman Jewison's movie of Jesus Christ Superstar, and he's
considering two stage offers. One is to play Jesus in the local Godspell
company, and the other is a replacement spot for Broadway's Pippin. Considering
his most recent assignment, he's leaning to accepting the former.
Big Brother's article, stating the cast will perform at Scarborough Junction
United Church. (May 6)
Farewell to 'Jesus'
The stage version of the rock musical Godspell marked its first birthday with a
lively circus-style happening in the children's cafeteria of the Ontario Science
Balloons and a band, hotdogs, hamburgs and the trimmings were arranged by
Godspell's "Boss Lady" Marlene Smith, who doubles as the company manager and
chief ticket agent.
The cast were all there: Jesus, played by Gordon Thomson, who hurt his knew
during the anniversary performance at the Playhouse Theatre; Marty Short; Eugene
Levy; Gilda Radner; Mary Ann McDonald; Avril Chown; Gerry Salsberg; Rudy Webb;
Patti Elsasser and Valda Aviks.
The anniversary performance was the final one for Thomson, Short, Salsberg and
Toronto's original Jesus, Victor Garber, who played Jesus in the movie version
of Godspell came, as did the show's musical director Paul Shaffer; its wardrobe
mistress Lillian Burgess; Gil MacTague and Gordon Massey, its two-man stage crew
and D'Arcy McHayle, its box office agent.
Reluctant to end his stint with the show, Marty Short closed the parry on a now
familiar note. Grabbing the band's microphone, Short launched into the Godspell
musical score and soon had the rest of the cast-and their assorted relatives and
friends-singing along gustily.
"On the same general subject, have you noticed how quietly and quickly the movie
of Godspell left town, and how, despite the competition, the stage version at
the Playhouse on Bayview has remained?
July 5 ... mentions Scardino is playing Jesus in off-Broadway in New York
Godspell heading for close
Godspell, the religious rock musical written by New Yorker John Michael Tebelak,
is scheduled to close at the Playhouse Theatre on Bayview Ave. Aug. 12.
Godspell celebrated its first anniversary June 1 and has already surpassed the
run of the former record-breaker, Hair, which ran a year and one week.
The all-Canadian cast of 10 features Toronto actors Eugene Levy as Jesus and Jim
Betts as Judas. However, the run may be extended two more weeks if ticket sales
improve during the summer.
(plus ad with "Last 3 Weeks" on it)
Godspell closing Sunday breaking Canadian record
The religious rock musical Godspell will be the longest running Canadian
production when it closes at the Playhouse on Bayview Ave. Aug. 12 after 488
It surpasses Oh, Coward which had 470 consecutive performances at the Theatre in
Godspell opened last June in the Royal Alexandra Theatre and took a week off in
September before moving to the Playhouse. The musical, with an all-Canadian
cast, will close because the 500-seat theatre was just half-filled during July.
The third longest-running production was Hair with 432 performances.
Eugene Levy, Jesus in Toronto's Godspell, joins the local Second City Aug. 21
because one of the troupe's two Americans, Joe O'Flaherty, is returning to the
Chicago mother house.
Scoff at Jesus-slanted rock musicals if you want, but Godspell closed Sunday at
the Playhouse Theatre on Bayview after setting a 488-performance Toronto stage
record. Opening Sept. 8, 1972, it grossed $784,115 there and an estimated
$75,000 during a previous three-month Royal Alexandra run. Godspell beat Oh
Coward, the previous record holder, by two performances.
Letter to editor from Robert F. Mirvish about how they use Canadian actors,
calling their Godspell cast "all-Canadian"
Jan 15, 1974
Mention of Victor Garber from Godspell being signed for
Jack: A Flash
March 13, 1974
Mention of "Godspell graduates" Rudy Webb and Shelly Somers. Also an ad for
opening of Second City.
April 17, 1974
Article about Brian James, the house manager of the Royal Alex, collecting tools
and getting help from 2nd Citiers who were in Godspell, Radner and Levy.