The St. James Theater may be about to welcome Barry Manilow, but before the aging crooner moves in, the Broadway musical Leap of Faith played a rousing, foot-stomping spring run in the same venue. The show opened in April and closed in May. What happened to the plucky, gospel-infused musical that could?
Leap of Faith had all the promise of a hit. Composed by Alan Menkin (Sister Act, Newsies) and with lyrics by Glenn Slater (Sister Act, The Little Mermaid), the musical Leap of Faith had a mighty pedigree. The sound was upbeat and all-American, powered by country, gospel and roots music. The choreography was energetic and exciting, reflecting the powerful talents of choreographer Sergio Trujillo. The story was a classic tale that many audiences are familiar with: a con-man with a flair for showmanship breezes into a one-horse town to sell hope to the rubes, and in this case, the “Reverend” Jonas Nightingale (capably played by Raul Esparza) is selling old-time religion in a revival tent. The trouble is that he becomes involved with local woman Marla McGowan (played by Jessica Phillips), who also happens to be the Sheriff. After falling for McGowan, what is the not-so-reverent “Reverend” supposed to do?
Leap of Faith is based on the 1992 movie of the same name which stars Steve Martin as the traveling con-man. Unfortunately, the original movie did not quite answer the question of what Nightingale does or does not do after encountering the love of a local woman. While the musical decides to lean towards redemption it also hedges its bets and the result is noncommittal, according to all the major reviewers. Maybe this is what caused the poor reviews and show’s early closing, and maybe not. It was a busy season on Broadway last spring with very little room for error. Leap of Faith will probably be excused the bad reviews, early closing, and be revived before too long. It was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical, after all.
Regardless of the 2012 show, the cast recording still lives on in all its glittering glory. The recording offers Esparza and the cast singing hits such as “Rise Up,” “Dancing in the Devil’s Shoes,” “Are You on the Bus?” and the title song, “Leap of Faith.” If you are looking for a revival in your ears, plug in this uplifting soundtrack. It is sure to put a “leap” in your step.
Interested in winning a copy? Read how to enter for your chance to win here.