When I was a teenager doing theatre in high school, a friend introduced me to the musical Godspell. We listened to the LP record of the Broadway production and watched the 1973 movie on TV. Years later, I got the movie on tape and then replaced it with a DVD. Even though it’s not a perfect musical or movie, it has a special place in my heart. Since 2001, the movie has had an added poignancy, since part of a dance number (All For The Best) was filmed on the roof of one of the Twin Towers. The building was still under construction at the time.
I spent years wondering what happened to my favorite cast member, Merrell Jackson. Eventually, the internet provided me with the heartbreaking answer. Merrell Jackson died in 1991 at the age of 38. I don’t know any details, and even his tribute site has little biographical information. Godspell was Jackson’s only movie, but it’s enough. Every time I watch his performance, I can’t help falling in love with him all over again. With his big hair, lean frame, beautiful voice, and a smile that’s both shy and winning, Jackson lights up the screen. He was the youngest member of the cast of ten, but he wasn’t the first one to pass away. Jeffrey Mylett died in 1986, and since Jackson’s death, both David Haskell and Lynne Thigpen have left us.
The DVD of Godspell from 2000 could use a quality upgrade, and the “widescreen” side is not truly widescreen; it simply zooms in and chops off the bottom portion of the image to create a wide picture. I don’t know if the streaming version through Amazon is any better. I almost overlooked the mp3 download of Merrell Jackson singing All Good Gifts at Amazon, because it is bundled together with the original Broadway soundtrack under the title Godspell (The 40th Anniversary Celebration). I’m happy to be listening to this song now, as I remember Merrell Jackson.