Leap of Faith — about a con-man preacher (Raúl Esparza) who blows into a depressed, drought-plagued Kansas town, where he spars with a lady sheriff (Jessica Phillips) — closed May 13 at the St. James Theatre, losing its entire $14 million investment.
But producers still have faith in the show. The investment in the album plus the costly cast appearance on the June 10 Tony Awards broadcast (where Esparza and the troupe sang the dance-filled gospel number, "Rise Up!") would seem to indicate plans for a future licensing life for the inspirational show. Leap of Faith earned but one 2012 Tony Award nomination — for Best Musical. On June 10, Menken and Jack Feldman won the 2012 Tony for Best Score for Newsies, which also opened this past season.
After learning of the recording date through production sources, Playbill reached out to Music Theatre International, which licenses other Menken shows, to inquire if MTI will be publishing and licensing the musical. MTI president Drew Cohen offered this statement, "We at MTI are very pleased that the original cast recording of Leap of Faith is forthcoming. This will insure that Alan and Glenn's score from this energizing show — whose life on Broadway was far shorter than it deserved — not only will be memorialized with its first-rate cast, but will serve as a calling card to regional theatres and community theatres, several of whom have already expressed interest in producing the show."
Leap of Faith, based on the film comedy of the same name, opened April 26 following previews from April 3.
Gospel and country punctuate the score by Menken and Slater, whose previous full Broadway score is for the still-running Sister Act. The libretto is by Warren Leight and original screenwriter Janus Cercone. It played 24 previews and 20 performances. Leap of Faith has music supervision by Michael Kosarin, vocal and incidental music arrangements by Kosarin, dance music arrangements by Zan Mark, music direction by Brent-Alan Huffman and orchestrations by Michael Starobin and Joseph Joubert.
In a previous statement, the producers said, "Although we love our show and very much appreciate both our many award nominations and the joy of our audiences, we have not been able to achieve a sustainable level of ticket sales to continue. We thank all those who worked so hard over so many years to bring Leap of Faith to Broadway."
Since a 2010 tryout in Los Angeles, the Leap of Faith libretto by Cercone (screenwriter of the film) was revised by Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony winner Leight (Side Man). Among other things, the character of Jonas' potential love interest, Marla McGowan, was reshaped as the county sheriff (played by Phillips, of Priscilla Queen of the Desert).
Tony Award nominee Christopher Ashley (All Shook Up, Memphis) directed.
When his traveling ministry breaks down in a small Kansas town, preacher and con artist Jonas Nightingale pitches a tent and invites the locals to a revival, to take their money over a three-day period. The town sheriff, Marla McGowan, is determined to stop him. The show is told in flashback, with Nightingale center-stage at a New York City revival meeting held at the St. James. Video cameras capture the audience before the show; confessional monologues pop up throughout the musical, with characters coming downstage on a runway that projects into the seats; walkways have been built into the sides of the auditorium to allow characters to walk from the stage to the boxes and into the balcony.
The principal cast features Kendra Kassebaum as Jonas' sister and partner in crime, Sam Nightingale; Kecia Lewis-Evans as bookkeeper Ida Mae Sturdevant, one of Jonas' followers; Leslie Odom, Jr. (TV's "Smash") as student-clergyman Isaiah Sturdevant, Ida Mae's son; Krystal Joy Brown as his sister Ornella Sturdevant; and Talon Ackerman as Marla's disabled and hopeful son Jake McGowan.
The company includes Hettie Barnhill, Kyle Brenn, Ta’Rea Campbell, Michelle Duffy, Lynorris Evans, Manoly Farrell, Dierdre Friel, Bob Gaynor, Lucia Giannetta, Angela Grovey, Louis Hobson, Tiffany Janene Howard, Grasan Kingsberry, Fletcher McTaggart, Maurice Murphy, Ian Paget, Terita Redd, Eliseo Román, Bryce Ryness, Ann Sanders, C.E. Smith, Danny Stiles, Dennis Stowe, Betsy Struxness, Roberta Wall and Virginia Ann Woodruff.
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Menken told Playbill.com that his score is flavored with the sounds of gospel, country and American roots music. He explained, "There are some songs that are very heartfelt that, I would say, are in more of a Broadway idiom, for lack of a better word: Basically, songs that come from the part of the soul that doesn't speak, necessarily, in a specific style but speaks in the appropriate musical vocabulary that will complement the rest of the score. That tends to be kind of a gut level thing, and you just can feel when it's gonna be appropriate to the character without necessarily defining what the style of it is."
The creative team included scenic designer Robin Wagner, costume designer William Ivey Long, lighting designer Don Holder, sound designer John Shivers, wigs and hair designer Paul Huntley and make up designer Angelina Avallone.
Leap of Faith was produced on Broadway by Michael Manheim; James D. Stern; Douglas L. Meyer; Marc Routh; Richard Frankel; Tom 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 Entertainment/JDC Investments; Center Theatre Group; Jujamcyn Theaters in association with Michael Palitz; Melissa Pinsly/Celine Rosenthal; Independent Presenters Network; Christina Papagjika; Broadway Across America; Diana Buckhantz; Pamela Cooper; Endgame Entertainment; Vera Guerin; Leading Investment Co., Ltd; Richard J. Stern; Victor Syrmis; Semlitz/Glaser Productions; associate producer Rebecca Falcon.
Watch Raúl Esparza and the cast of the Tony-nominated Leap of Faith perform "Rise Up!" on the 2012 Tony Awards: