Directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford, the production will continue through Oct. 24.
Esparza plays Reverend Jonas Nightengale, the consummate flim-flam man, and Shields is Marva, the small-town woman and single mother who challenges everything he believes in. Kendra Kassebaum plays the role of Sam, the Reverend's sister and sidekick.
Principals also include Nicholas Barasch, Jarrod Emick, Kecia Lewis-Evans and Leslie Odom, Jr. The ensemble comprises Brad Anderson, Bradley Benjamin, Tom Berklund, Christopher Bones, Krystal Joy Brown, Ta'Rea Campbell, Eric L. Christian, Michelle Duffy, Harvey Evans, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Jennie Ford, Bob Gaynor, Angela Grovey, Shannon Lewis, Michael X. Martin, Maurice Murphy, Anise E. Ritchie, Darcie Roberts, Bryce Ryness, Ariel Shepley, C.E. Smith, Alex Michael Stoll, Dennis Stowe, Katherine Tokarz, Brandon Wardell, Karl Warden, Natalie Willes and Charlie Williams.
Composer Menken recently told Playbill.com that "the [Leap of Faith] story is not unlike other stories that have been adapted for musicals, but the gospel-revival aspect of it was pretty unique, and especially the cynical, behind-the-scenes look at the gospel revival leading to something actually more emotional and redeeming at the end, made it really interesting." Menken also said that his score for the new musical is influenced by country music as well as "American roots music, and 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."
"When his traveling ministry breaks down in a small Kansas town," Ahmanson notes state, "part-time reverend and full-time con artist (Esparza) 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 (Shields) and her son, whose love forces an 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 and written by Janus Cercone.
Leap of Faith is the first production in Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre’s 2010-2011 season at the Los Angeles County Music Center.
For further information visit CenterTheatreGroup.org/Leap.