St. James Theatre, (4/26/2012 - 5/13/2012)

First Preview: Apr 03, 2012
Opening Date: Apr 26, 2012
Closing Date: May 13, 2012
Total Previews: 25
Total Performances: 19

Category: Musical, Original, Broadway

Opening Night Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by Jujamcyn Theaters (Jordan Roth: President; Paul Libin: Executive Vice President; Jack Viertel: Senior Vice President)

Produced by Michael Manheim, James D. Stern, Douglas L. Meyer, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Thomas Viertel, Steven Baruch, Annette Niemtzow, Daryl Roth, Robert G. Bartner, Steven and Shanna Silva, Patricia Monaco, Debi Coleman, Dancap Productions, Inc., Steve Kaplan, Relativity Media, LLC, Rich/Caudwell, Center Theatre Group (Michael Ritchie, Artistic Director; Edward L. Rada, Managing Director; Douglas C. Baker, Producing Director) and Endgame Entertainment; Produced in association with Michael Palitz, Melissa Pinsly/Celine Rosenthal, Independent Presenters Network, Christina Papagjika, Broadway Across America, Diana Buckhantz, Pamela Cooper, Vera Guerin, Leading Investment Co., Ltd, Richard J. Stern, Victor Syrmis, Semlitz/Glaser Productions and Jujamcyn Theaters (Jordan Roth: President; Paul Libin: Executive Vice President; Jack Viertel: Senior Vice President); Associate Producer: Rebecca Falcon

Based on the motion picture produced by Paramount Pictures Corporation; Motion picture written by Janus Cercone

Book by Janus Cercone and Warren Leight; Lyrics by Glenn Slater; Music by Alan Menken; Musical Director: Brent-Alan Huffman; Music orchestrated by Michael Starobin and Joseph Joubert; Vocal arrangements by Michael Kosarin; Dance Music arrangements by Zane Mark; Incidental Music Arranger: Michael Kosarin; Associate Musical Dir.: Jason Michael Webb

Directed by Christopher Ashley; Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo; Associate Director: Beatrice Terry; Associate Choreographer: Edgar Godineaux

Scenic Design by Robin Wagner; Costume Design by William Ivey Long; Lighting Design by Don Holder; Sound Design by John Shivers; Hair and Wig Design by Paul Huntley; Make-Up Design by Angelina Avallone; Associate Scenic Design: David Peterson; Associate Costume Design: Martha Bromelmeier; Associate Lighting Design: Jeanne Koenig; Associate Sound Design: David Patridge; Associate Wig Design: Giovanna Calabretta and Edward J. Wilson

General Manager: Frankel Green Theatrical Management; Company Manager: Kathy Lowe; Associate Gen. Mgr: Joshua A. Saletnik; Associate Co. Mgr: Sammy Ledbetter

Technical Supervisor: Hudson Theatrical Associates and Sam Ellis; Production Supervisor: Steven Zweigbaum; Stage Manager: Joseph Sheridan

Conducted by Brent-Alan Huffman; Associate Conductor: Jason Michael Webb; Concert Master: Rick Dolan; Woodwinds: Gregory Thymius, Charles Pillow, Dave Noland and Roger Rosenberg; Trumpets/Flügels: Matthew Peterson, Gregory L. Gisbert and Jeremy Miloszewicz; Trombone/Bass Trombone: Timothy Sessions; Violins: Una Tone and Shinwon Kim; Viola: Richard Brice; Cello: Sarah Hewitt-Roth; Electric Bass: Lynn Keller; Guitar: David Spinozza; Drums/Percussion: Perry Cavari; Piano/Synthesizer: Jason Michael Webb; Hammond B3/Synthesizer: Jeff Marder; Music Supervisor: Michael Kosarin; Musical Coordinator: John Miller

Illusions by Afterglow Group, LLC

Dance Captain: Ian Paget; Press Representative: Boneau / Bryan-Brown; Advertising: Serino Coyne; Video Coordinator: Shawn Sagady; Casting: Telsey + Company; Photographer: Joan Marcus

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Opening Night Cast

Raúl EsparzaJonas Nightingale
Talon AckermanJake McGowan
Krystal Joy BrownOrnella Sturdevant
Kendra KassebaumSam Nightingale
Kecia Lewis-EvansIda Mae Sturdevant
Leslie Odom, Jr.Isaiah Sturdevant
Jessica PhillipsMarla McGowan
Hettie Vyrine BarnhillAngel of Mercy
Ta'Rea CampbellAngel of Mercy
Michelle DuffySusie Raylove
Townsperson
Lynorris EvansAngel of Mercy
Dierdre FrielAmanda Wayne
Townsperson
Bob GaynorAngel of Mercy
Townsperson
Lucia GiannettaAngel of Mercy
Angela GroveyAngel of Mercy
Louis HobsonTownsperson
Tiffany Janene HowardAngel of Mercy
Grasan KingsberryAngel of Mercy
Fletcher McTaggartAngel of Mercy
Maurice MurphyOffstage Vocalist
Terita ReddOffstage Vocalist
Eliseo RománAngel of Mercy
Bryce RynessBrother Zak
Angel of Mercy
Ann SandersTownsperson
C. E. SmithBrother Amon
Angel of Mercy
Danny StilesTownsperson
Dennis StoweBrother Carl
Angel of Mercy
Betsy StruxnessAngel of Mercy
Townsperson
Roberta B. WallEmma Schlarp
Townsperson
Virginia Ann WoodruffAngel of Mercy

Swings: Manoly Farrell, Maurice Murphy, Ian Paget and Terita Redd

Understudies: Kyle Brenn (Jake McGowan), Ta'Rea Campbell (Ornella Sturdevant), Michelle Duffy (Marla McGowan, Sam Nightingale), Angela Grovey (Ida Mae Sturdevant), Louis Hobson (Jonas Nightingale), Grasan Kingsberry (Isaiah Sturdevant), Maurice Murphy (Isaiah Sturdevant), Terita Redd (Ornella Sturdevant), Bryce Ryness (Jonas Nightingale), Ann Sanders (Marla McGowan), Betsy Struxness (Sam Nightingale) and Virginia Ann Woodruff (Ida Mae Sturdevant)

Awards and Nominations

Tony Award®

 2012 Best Musical [nominee] 

Produced by Michael Manheim, James D. Stern, Douglas L. Meyer, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Thomas Viertel, Steven Baruch, Annette Niemtzow, Daryl Roth, Robert G. Bartner, Steven and Shanna Silva, Endgame Entertainment, Patricia Monaco, Debi Coleman, Dancap Productions, Inc., Steve Kaplan, Relativity Media, LLC, Rich/Caudwell and Center Theatre Group (Michael Ritchie, Artistic Director; Edward L. Rada, Managing Director; Douglas C. Baker, Producing Director); Produced in association with Michael Palitz, Richard J. Stern, Melissa Pinsly/Celine Rosenthal, Independent Presenters Network, Diana Buckhantz, Pamela Cooper, Vera Guerin, Leading Investment Co., Ltd, Christina Papagjika, Victor Syrmis, Semlitz/Glaser Productions and Jujamcyn Theaters (Jordan Roth: President; Paul Libin: Executive Vice President; Jack Viertel: Senior Vice President)

Drama Desk Award

 2012 Outstanding Musical [nominee] 

Produced by Michael Manheim, James D. Stern, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Thomas Viertel, Steven Baruch, Annette Niemtzow, Daryl Roth, Robert G. Bartner, Patricia Monaco, Steven and Shanna Silva, Debi Coleman, Dancap Productions, Inc., Steve Kaplan, Relativity Media, LLC, Rich/Caudwell, Center Theatre Group (Michael Ritchie, Artistic Director; Edward L. Rada, Managing Director; Douglas C. Baker, Producing Director) and Endgame Entertainment; Produced in association with Michael Palitz, Melissa Pinsly/Celine Rosenthal, Independent Presenters Network, Christina Papagjika, Broadway Across America, Diana Buckhantz, Pamela Cooper, Vera Guerin, Leading Investment Co., Ltd, Richard J. Stern, Victor Syrmis, Semlitz/Glaser Productions and Jujamcyn Theaters (Jordan Roth: President; Paul Libin: Executive Vice President; Jack Viertel: Senior Vice President)

 2012 Outstanding Book of a Musical [nominee] 

Book by Janus Cercone and Warren Leight

 2012 Outstanding Actor in a Musical [nominee] 

Raúl Esparza

 2012 Outstanding Choreography [nominee] 

Sergio Trujillo

 2012 Outstanding Music [nominee] 

Music by Alan Menken

 2012 Outstanding Director of a Musical [nominee] 

Christopher Ashley

Songs

music by Alan Menken; lyrics by Glenn Slater

ACT 1 Sung By
Rise Up!Ida Mae, Ornella, Isaiah, Jonas Nightingale, Sam and Angels of Mercy
Fox in the HenhouseMarla McGowan and Jonas
Fields of the LordSam, Jonas and Angels of Mercy
Step Into the LightOrnella, Jonas, Ida Mae, Angels of Mercy and Townspeople
Walking Like DaddyIsaiah
LostIda Mae and Angels of Mercy
I Can Read YouMarla and Jonas
Like MagicJake and Jonas
I Can Read You (Reprise) Sam and Jonas
Dancin' in the Devil's ShoesIsaiah, Ornella, Ida Mae and Angels of Mercy
King of SinJonas
Dancin' in the Devil's Shoes (Reprise) Isaiah, Ornella, Ida Mae, Angels of Mercy and Townspeople
ACT 2 Sung By
Rise Up! (Reprise) Angels of Mercy and Townspeople
Long Past Dreamin'Marla and Jonas
Are You on the Bus?Ornella, Sam, Ida Mae, Isaiah and Jonas
Like Magic (Reprise) Jake and Jonas
People Like UsSam and Marla
Last Chance SalvationJonas, Angels of Mercy and Townspeople
If Your Faith Is Strong EnoughJonas, Angels of Mercy and Townspeople
Jonas' SoliloquyJonas
Leap of FaithThe Company

Reviews


AP: "Leap of Faith jumps around too much"

The last musical of the official Broadway season comes into town like a huckster promising salvation. But it's the show itself that needs saving.

There's a strong musical somewhere in "Leap of Faith," which stars a soulful Raul Esparza and has some of Alan Menken's best songs.

But what opened Thursday at the St. James Theatre is sometimes confusing in its tone. Like its main character – the devious faith healer Rev. Jonas Nightingale, ready to scam residents of a down-and-out Kansas town – the musical is hard to pin down. There's too much misdirection.

The show is based on the 1992 film starring Steve Martin that was written by Janus Cercone. This time, she has teamed up with Warren Leight for a book that keeps the preacher's rhinestone jacket but plays up the romance.

"Leap of Faith" feels like many hands have tried to heal it over the years since it had its world premiere in late 2010 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. It's both overwritten and yet underwritten. It breaks the fourth wall repeatedly and also pretends it hasn't.

It sometimes comments on itself and then falls back into being a conventional musical. It exposes the high-tech tricks that fraudulent preachers use – and then tries to pull its own magic tricks on us. It keeps tripping itself up.

"Do you even know when you're lying anymore?" the preacher is asked at one point.

"Not so much," he answers.

All that obscures a terrific Esparza and Jessica Phillips, who plays the widowed town official skeptical of Nightingale's motives. It takes away, too, from strong songs by Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater that include "I Can Read You," "Long Past Dreamin'," "Are You on the Bus?" and the thunderously good title tune.

The bones of a very good show are here if only the muscle was toned – or at least moving in one direction. Perhaps just too many layers accreted as the show passed over the years through directors Taylor Hackford to Rob Ashford to now Christopher Ashley.

The hard-sell starts as soon as the audience files into the theater, with a cameraman sweeping over the crowd and broadcasting his images on six screens. There are actors wearing red buttons that say "Rise Up" handing out fake dollar bills. At points during the performance, baskets are shoved into the crowd to retrieve the cash.

The revival meeting feeling continues with metal walkways connecting the stage and audience and even the loss of the theater's best seats to accommodate a ramp thrusting out into the crowd. Further blurring the boundaries, actors sit in the orchestra seats, waving their hands and shrieking with delight. The effect is, oddly, distancing – the opposite of the intention.

The play is mostly set in the drought-stricken town of Sweetwater, Kan., where Nightingale's traveling revival show has been stranded after their bus breaks down. Despite the threat of arrest and fines from the skeptical sheriff, Nightingale decides to put on a three-day event to pray for rain and wheedle money from the townsfolk.

Romantic sparks fly between Nightingale and the sheriff (Phillips), but she worries that her crippled son (Talon Ackerman) is being hoodwinked into believing that the preacher can help him walk again. Meanwhile, the preacher's sister (Kendra Kassebaum) warns him about losing sight of the payday.

In a secondary plotline, the traveling revival show's bookkeeper (Kecia Lewis-Evans) is visited by her son (Leslie Odom), a student at a Bible college who knows a scam when he sees one. He wants his mother and sister (Krystal Joy Brown) to walk with Jesus, not a crook.

Esparza throws himself into the role, finding the vulnerability and self-doubt in his sleazy character even as he prowls the ramps and slithers on his back to sell his lies. Phillips is a cool drink of water in her tight jeans and cowboy boots. She has a beautiful voice and the vocal skills of Lewis-Evans, Odom and Brown are also heavenly.

There are some nifty touches, including choir robes that descend on a rod for the quickest onstage costume changes in Broadway history, a killer duet between Brown and Odom, and the final thrilling scene. The connection between religion and love – leaps of faith, both – is nicely explored.

If only the show itself had enough faith to leap in one direction.


AP
04/26/2012

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