"The show draws its inspiration from the real-life events of a Depression-era Harlem evangelist named Father Divine, who enjoyed mixing Christian doctrine with capitalism, mysticism, socialism and his own brand of wild ideas," according to production notes. "His movement took momentum from the notion that heaven was already on earth and that he was God. The actual Father Divine allowed few dissenters. Vartabedian's musical is an astute and humorous blend of fact and fantasy about the life and times of Father Divine that makes his most potent adversary his first wife."
The musical begins with a with mysterious death of the sixtysomething Mother Divine. "Soon after this event, Father Divine decides to marry a 21-year-old blond and pass her off as 'Mother in the Second Body.' Whether Father ascribes to the vows of celibacy he demands of his followers or not, it doesn't stop his first wife, Mother Number One from coming back to earth to seek retribution."
The creator of the concept for Mother Divine, is librettist and lyricist Laurel Klinger Vartabedian. Her original musical, American Story, which she also wrote with composer Bill G. Evans, was produced in New York's 2000 Midtown International Theatre Festival, where it won a Best of the Fest Award. Evans' work as an accomplished musician, orchestrator and composer includes jazz, art songs, chamber music and solo recitals.
Stephen Michael Ayers directs. Bradley Martin is musical director.
The company includes Rudy Roberson (The Life) as Father Divine. Roberson also choreographs Mother Divine. Kat Williams, known for her work in jazz and blues clubs, plays Mother Divine. Tickets are $15. The Greenwich House Theatre is at 27 Barrow Street, off Seventh Avenue South. Fringe shows are presented on scattered days and times. For more information, call (212) 279-4488 or visit www.fringeNYC.org.