‘Leap of Faith’ opens next week

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 10, 2013

Local residents will have a chance to see a Broadway musical that virtually nobody has seen staged when “Leap of Faith” opens at the Meroney Theater next week.

The show had a brief run on Broadway last year, opening for a mere 24 previews and 20 performances, before closing down due to lack of funds. It later received a Tony nomination for best musical.

Piedmont Players Theatre is the first group to perform the show since it closed.

“It should be really, really interesting to see what the audience thinks,” said Reid Leonard, Piedmont Players’ resident director. “For us, it’s a brand new show and a brand new experience.

“We’re doing ‘Chicago’ this spring, which everybody knows, so this is our unknown show of the year.”

“Leap of Faith” is based on the 1992 film starring Steve Martin about a con-man preacher who has his spirits tested when he attempts to pull one over on a depressed Kansas town by staging a revival.

“While they’re there for three days of revival strange and odd and bizarre and wonderful things begin to happen,” Leonard said.

Tod Kubo, the production’s choreographer, described the main character Jonas Nightingale, played by Josh Wainright, as a “fraud so he challenges whatever you believe in.”

“Real things start to happen that he says are going to happen, but he’s not controlling it this time, so it’s kind of a little smack in the face for something that we can’t see,” he said.

Leonard said the show’s music is a mix of Gospel and country western.

The audience can expect to see “quite a bit of dancing” paired with the singing, Leonard said.

“The movement is inspired by a larger-than-life Gospel choir,” Kubo said. “The whole approach (used by Nighingale) is very commercial, as if they are selling faith as a product, so the choreography is packaged, it’s polished, and it’s very synthetic for the most part.”

Leonard said he hopes everybody will like the show.

“If you’re interested in faith and what faith is and how faith works, that’s part of the play,” he said.”

Theater-goers may be drawn to the show because of its writers, Alan Menken and Glenn Slater.

Menken, who wrote the score, is known for his work on “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” Slater has written lyrics for “Sister Act” and “The Little Mermaid.”

Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.

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