With book, original lyrics, and direction by Lee Breuer and original music, adapted lyrics, and music direction by Bob Telson, The Gospel at Colonus is a retelling of Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, set in the Black Pentecostal church and featuring the Blind Boys of Alabama collectively as Oedipus. The Washington Post called the show “dramatically audacious” and praised the album’s “powerhouse performances” and “sheer massed strength of the various gospel choirs.” The New York Times calls it "an exhilarating musical celebration." The New Yorker says it's "a masterpiece."
Set in the context of a black Pentecostal service, The Gospel at Colonus is an exuberant retelling of Sophocles' classic Oedipus at Colonus. With book, original lyrics, and direction by Lee Breuer and original music, adapted lyrics, and music direction by Bob Telson, this original cast recording, featuring the Blind Boys of Alabama as Oedipus, was made in a 1985 performance at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia. With the ground-shaking thunder of a gospel revival meeting, this Obie-winning adaptation celebrates the 2,400-year-old myth of Oedipus' redemption with a rousing gospel and blues score. The Washington Post called the show "dramatically audacious" and praised the album's "powerhouse performances" and "sheer massed strength of the various gospel choirs." The New York Times calls it "an exhilarating musical celebration."
The Gospel at Colonus premiered in 1983 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival to great acclaim, earning the Obie Award for Outstanding Musical, and was a 1985 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The groundbreaking musical moved to Broadway, opening on March 24, 1988, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, and earning a 1988 Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical and Grammy Award nomination for Best Recorded Theatrical Score. Since its original Broadway run, The Gospel at Colonus has toured with a majority of the original cast, nationally and internationally with engagements in New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, London, Edinburgh, Paris, Zurich, Spoleto, Barcelona, Sao Paolo, Moscow, Vienna, and Athens, among others.
Recordings produced for Great Performances, by WNET/New York
Album produced by Bob Telson
Engineer: David Hewitt
Recorded in performance September 19, 1985, at the Annenberg Center, Philadelphia, as part of the American Music Theater Festival
Mixed at Sync Sound and Remote Recording
“Lift Me Up (Like a Dove)” and “Sunlight of No Light”
Produced by Donald Fagen, Gary Katz, Daniel Lazerus, and Bob Telson
Engineer: Daniel Lazerus
Recorded summer 1984 at Clinton and Soundworks Studios
Front cover art by Doug Johnson
Back cover photograph © 1983 Tom Caravaglia
Clarence Fountain & The Five Blind Boys of Alabama: Bobby Butler, Sam Butler, J.T. Clinkscales, Clarence Fountain, Rev. Olice Thomas, Joe Watson
J.J. Farley & The Original Soul Stirrers: Jackie Banks, J.J. Farley, Martin Jacox, Ben Odom, Willie Rogers
The J.D. Steele Singers: Fred Steele, J.D. Steele, Jearlyn Steele-Battle, Jevetta Steele
The Institutional C.O.G.I.C. Radio Choir:
Director: Carl Williams, Jr.
Soloist: Carolyn Johnson-White
Guest Choir Director for The Gospel at Colonus: J.D. Steele
Donald Ballard, Charles Bellamy, Deborah C. Britt, Katie Bronn, Betty Cooper, Carl Cooper, George Cooper, Peggy Cooper, Walter Dixon, Keith Doars, Shari Driskill, Mary Fisher, Beverly Graham, Angie Haddock, Vincent J. Haddock, Jr., William Hines, Mary Hunt, Selene Jones, Shellie Jordan, Zack Kelly, Edgar Ladson, Evelyn Langston, Tyrone D. McCall, Denise Martin, Terrence Moore, Janet C. Napper, Ruth Payne, Lillie Richards, Josie Rogers, Joyce Taylor, Arnita Tillman, Ezekiel Tobby, Brenda Hyman Turner, Cynthia Wainwright, Linda Wilkerson, Monique Williams, Joan Faye Wright
Sam Butler, guitar, vocals
Leroy Clouden, drums
Lincoln Schleifer, bass
Butch Heyward, organ
Bob Telson, piano, synthesizer
Chris Royal, trumpet
Marc Johnson, trombone
John Hagen, baritone saxophone, alto saxophone
Bob Malach, alto saxophone
Hugh McCracken, slide guitar and harmonica
Zev Katz, bass