Take a ‘Leap of Faith’ with a night full of song

  • Posted: Friday, October 18, 2013 12:59 a.m.

SALISBURY — If you need a little lively revival music to get you going, step into the big tent that is “Leap of Faith.”

Piedmont Players’ production of the musical about faith healers and salvation boasts a huge cast, a choir of angels and a fake preacher, Jonas Nightingale.

Piedmont’s own marketing director, Josh Wainright, takes on Nightingale’s role with a good deal of success. Maybe he believes too thoroughly that he’s a charlatan, because after “the miracle,” he still seems pretty doubtful. But he carries the show and belts out the songs with a wink and a nod like any good tent preacher would.

Of course, the golden voice in the show belongs to perennial favorite Alexis Greer, playing the chief Angel of Mercy, Ida Mae Sturdevant. Greer seems to completely inhabit the part, and when she starts singing, well, hold on to your seats.

The person who will steal your heart, though, is Owen Teague as Jake McGowan, a boy in a wheelchair who fervently believes Jonas can heal him and make him walk again. The moment when Nightingale has to face up to his own abusive treatment of people is when Jake refuses NOT to believe him, and asks him to perform a miracle. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Prepare to be impressed.

Jessica Walker is the tough sheriff lady who happens to be Jake’s mother. Walker plays Marla McGowan with the right edge and a firm disbelief in all of Nightingale’s claims, though she is attracted to him.

Aubrey Lynn Barton is Nightingale’s jaded sister, a full believer in the power to dupe people and a talent for steering Nightingale to the most unfortunate dupes in the tent. She and McGowan have a touching song, “People Like Us” that shows they’re not so different.

And then here come’s Ida Mae’s son, Isaiah, taking a break from Bible college to check on his mother and sister, played by Hannah-Kathryn Wall. King also has a strong voice and not just for the music. The character of Isaiah is something of a prophet when he shows up and tries to convince Jonas to give up the scam.

Wall, as Ornella, has two strong numbers, “Dancin’ in the Devil’s Shoes” and “Are You on the Bus?” Like Greer, she often overwhelms her microphone. Both women have powerful voices and would do fine without the sometimes screechy mikes.

In addition to the large group of angels, there’s a slew of townspeople, with names regular Piedmont audiences will recognize.

The set and story are simple. Nightingale is a Jim Bakker-style personality, but without all the rich trappings. In fact, they can barely feed themselves and are wanted in several states for unpaid bills. When the bus breaks down in Sweetwater, Kan., where it hasn’t rained in months, Nightingale figures they’ve just got to make the best of it and raise money to get out of town.

He figures he can hit on the lovely lady in the cowboy boots while he’s in town, and isn’t even dissuaded when he sees her badge.

But she’s got her eyes on him and does not want him to have anything to do with her son — she doesn’t want him disappointed and hurt.

Isaiah wants to get his mama and his sister out of this bad business. Ida Mae wants him to shush. Sister Sam figures disabled Jake is the key to making a fortune from little Sweetwater. Nightingale actually has an attack of conscious.

It’s up to you to go to the show and see what happens next.

The opening night performance started a bit late and had an extended intermission, making it a two hour, 10 minute evening. It should settle down to two hours or less as the performances continue.

Director Reid Leonard and co-director and choreographer Tod A. Kubo gathered a talented cast for an uplifting evening. The Angels dance up a storm. It’s a cliche, but you’ll laugh and cry as the Nightingale flies through a dark night. Accompanying the group is a lively orchestra conducted by Adrian Smith.

“Leap of Faith,” underwritten by Novant Health, continues tonight and Saturday and Oct. 23-26 at 7:30 p.m. with a 2:30 p.m. matinee this Sunday. For tickets, call 704-633-5471 or visit www.piedmontplayers.com

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