It wouldn't be such a leap, really. The acclaimed actor played the role (opposite Sutton Foster) in a developmental workshop of the show, which is drawn from the Steve Martin film comedy of the same name.
Director-choreographer Rob Ashford told Playbill.com columnist Harry Haun on April 25, "The next thing I'm doing is Leap of Faith in L.A. with Raúl Esparza in the Steve Martin role. We start rehearsals at the end of July and open at the Ahmanson in September. It could come in [to Broadway] after that, but I will be back next season for sure this time next year with How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."
Ashford's new Broadway staging of Promises, Promises opened April 25 at the Broadway Theatre. Esparza's most recent New York City role was Hapgood in the Encores! staging of Anyone Can Whistle.
A spokesperson for Center Theatre Group, which operates the Ahmanson, told Playbill.com on April 26 that casting for the new musical has not been confirmed.
Leap of Faith, with music by Menken, lyrics by Slater and book by Slater and original screenwriter Janus Cercone (with Slater), will play a world-premiere engagement Sept. 5-Oct. 17, CTG announced April 22. Opening is Sept. 26. Menken (Beauty and the Beast) is the eight-time Academy Award-winning composer; Tony nominee Slater is a lyricist known for Broadway's The Little Mermaid and the Menken musical Sister Act, plus the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Love Never Dies (for which he co-wrote the book).
Here's how CTG bills Leap of Faith: "When part-time reverend and full-time con artist, the Reverend Jonas Nightengale, stops in a small Kansas town with his traveling ministry, he quickly pitches a tent and invites the locals to a revival. The sheriff is determined to stop Jonas from separating the townspeople from their money, but Jonas' real challenge arises when he meets a pretty waitress and her son, whose love for him forces this ultimate cynic to take a real leap of faith."
The new musical is based on the motion picture "Leap of Faith," produced by Paramount Pictures Corporation.
Ashford won a Tony for his choreography of Thoroughly Modern Millie. He directed and choreographed the Donmar Warehouse production of Parade at the Mark Taper Forum in 2009. He was Tony-nominated for his Broadway choreography The Wedding Singer (2006), Curtains (2007) and Cry-Baby (2008).
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