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Judd Apatow To Exec Produce Doc On Star-Making 1972 Toronto ‘Godspell’

EXCLUSIVE: The legendary 1972 Toronto production of the musical Godspell – a staging that launched the careers of Martin Short, Eugene Levy, Gilda Radner, Victor Garber, Paul Shaffer, Andrea Martin and Dave Thomas, among others – will be the subject of a feature length documentary exec produced by Judd Apatow.

“As a bona fide comedy nerd,” said Apatow in a statement, “I’ve long wondered what exactly brought that amazing group of people together to produce not just a fantastic theatrical event, but what came after: Second City Toronto, SCTV, and of course Saturday Night Live – not to mention a host of movies and TV from Splash to The Three Amigos to Schitt’s Creek and Only Murders in the Building. None of that would have happened in the way that it did without the Toronto Godspell.”

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The film will be produced, directed and co-written (with Jane Mendelsohn) by Nick Davis, whose most recent film, Once Upon a Time in Queens, aired on ESPN’s 30 for 30. He’s currently exec producing a film for Netflix about the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

The documentary, slated for release in 2025, will include interviews with all surviving cast members, never-before seen footage and personal archives, and audio recordings Short made of the musical and intimate gatherings where the young cast drank, partied, and in some cases fell in love.

‘Godspell’ program and Nick Davis
‘Godspell’ program and Nick Davis

“The audio tapes will help bring this extraordinary moment to life,” said director Davis. “It was truly like a kind of Paris in the ’20s of the comedy revolution that was to come, and listening to these tapes is like being a fly on the wall when history is being made.”

Davis added, “Who would have thought that so much divinely inspired comedy would come from this one production of a musical about the life of Jesus – in Toronto?”

The film is expected to detail the creative scene in Toronto during those years: Friends of the cast, which also featured Canadian actor and comedian Jayne Eastwood, included John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, Harold Ramis, and Dan Aykroyd and his comedy partner Valri Bromfield.

Godspell, written by John-Michael Tebelak with music by Stephen Schwartz, is a musical based on the Gospel of Matthew, and has run almost continuously worldwide since its debut at New York’s Off Broadway theater La Mama in 1971.

The Toronto production was supposed to run for only a handful of weeks, but proved so popular it was extended and ended up running for over a year and a half. During the engagement, Andrea Martin and Eugene Levy became original members of Second City Toronto, and Garber left to star in the feature film of Godspell. When Toronto native Lorne Michaels was hired a couple years later to create the new NBC late-night comedy show that would become Saturday Night Live, the first person he cast was Radner, who he’d seen in Godspell.

Collectively, members of Toronto’s Godspell production would go on to be nominated for over 40 Emmys, win 3 Oscars, 9 Emmys, 6 Grammys and 3 Tony Awards. Four – Shaffer, Levy, Short and Garber – have been awarded the Order of Canada.

The documentary will be produced by Davis, Sue Turley of XRM Media and Tom Powers of Open Door Co. alongside executive producers Apatow, Stephanie Hannon, Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley.

CAA and UTA are handling worldwide sales. Davis is represented by CAA.

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