Matthew Shepard-Themed Matthew Passion Opens Off-Broadway April 2

News   Matthew Shepard-Themed Matthew Passion Opens Off-Broadway April 2 Matthew Passion, which is billed as "A New Play (with music)," officially opens at the American Theatre of Actors' Chernuchin Theatre April 2. Previews began March 29.
Jimmi Kilduff and Jay Sullivan in Matthew Passion.
Jimmi Kilduff and Jay Sullivan in Matthew Passion. Photo by David Morgan

The stories of the passion of the Christ, the brutally murdered Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, and a middle-aged HIV positive man are all part of writer-composer Phil Hall's production.

Directed by Steve Stringfellow with choreography by Jacob Brent, the cast includes Jeff Applegate, James Royce Edwards, Jimmi Kilduff, Timothy John Mandala, Chad McCallon, Craig Ramsay, Andrew Redeker, Matt Shepard and Jay Sullivan. Six musicians are also featured in the intermissionless 80-minute production.

The design team comprises Michael Anania (scenic design), Jimmy Johansmeyer (costume design), Jerome J. Hoppe (lighting design) and David Ferdinand/One Dream Sound Corporation (sound design). Production Stage Manager is Harold Goldfaden.

Matthew Passion, according to press notes, "tells the story of the passion of Christ; the story of Matthew Shepard being picked up at a bar in Laramie, Wyoming, beaten and left for dead on a hillside; and the story of a middle-aged HIV positive survivor who has outlived his life expectancy. Although the three stories take place in three different locations, and are thousands of years apart, they all reflect one another and converge in the final scene. . . . [It] is the story of one man's journey to overcome his fear, and live his life in the fullness and beauty of who he was born to be. While it centers around one man's story, it's a play with universal themes — renewal, regeneration and hope. [The play] addresses the fear and shame many still feel of being: gay, HIV+, and passive as we watch friends and loved ones being persecuted for their beliefs, race or sexuality."

Phil Hall is a playwright, composer-lyricist and musical director. He composed the score for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which was seen at the Paper Mill Playhouse and the North Shore Music Theatre. He was the vocal arranger for Sophisticated Ellington (Carnegie Hall) and Some Enchanted Evening, a Rodgers and Hammerstein revue. He conducted the Broadway musical Play Me a Country Song and was the associate conductor for the revival of Mame. Hall has been a conductor/musical director at The Kennedy Center, St. Louis MUNY, Paper Mill Playhouse, Seattle's Fifth Avenue Theatre and Kansas City Starlight, among others. Matthew Passion plays Wednesday-Saturday evenings at 8 PM with Sunday matinees at 3 PM. Tickets, priced $18, are available by calling (212) 868-4444 or by visiting www.smarttix.com.

The American Theatre of Actors' Chernuchin Theatre is located in Manhattan at 314 West 54th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.

<i>Matthew Passion</i> opens Off-Broadway.
Matthew Passion opens Off-Broadway. Photo by David Vance