Leap of Faith...Ugh, I Just Can't.

Look at these readers...

Those are the photos of a bonafide star - whom is pretty nice on the eyes - who knows he is acting in a cray cray show. And by cray cray, I am talking "how much crack was smoked to think that this show was ever a good idea?" Every once in a while, that show comes along...you know, the one where you think to yourself, "why the hell does this exist?" 

Oh look...there is Leap of Faith, open at the St. James Theater, right on cue. It is a show so horrible, I fear my brain, eyes and ears might never recover; we are talking Wonderland and Baby, It's You territory here. The show can strike you dead with its horrible, so be warned...you might literally die. Then again, just thinking about the show makes death seem like a reasonable solution...

Yikes, I wish I was kidding. I only sort of am.

In the string of endless movie-adaptations and religion-based musicals, Leap of Faith is a culmination of all the trends, but does not have one single point of redemption amidst its two-and-a-half hour run time. It stumbles into "funny bad" territory occasionally, but even those moments get drowned out with areas of MAJOR DISCOMFORT. It's just lackluster and uninspired and it should not exist in my line of sight...there is none of this, "oh, that could be refined" or "work on that a little bit more" or "hey, at least that part was good." Take the production in its entirety, toss it into a fire pit and watch it burn. One of the taglines is, "Are you on the bus?"...well, let me tell you, I am not in fact on the bus. Instead, I want to set it on fire. I am the one with a gallon of lighter fluid looking to roast some marshmallows...except I would feel bad for the marshmallows being roasted from a suck-filled makeshift fire.

Let's back up a bit...the entire show revolves around Jonas Nightingale (Raul Esparza...poor Raul), claiming to be a spiritual healer (oh, it gets worse), and his motley choir as they go town-to-town swindling its residents out of their money. When his bus breaks down in Kansas (of course), he becomes entangled with the town sheriff, who happens to be a single mother whose son is in a wheelchair. And there we have it…

As far as concepts go...yeah, who actually thinks this will be an engaging joyride? And believe me, it is as predictable as you would expect, right down to the conclusion. But that's not the issue here - even though religion pushing in a social setting is awkward when it is handled so abrasively. The issue is that…there is nothing there.

Hello Biceps!
No protagonists or antagonists, no believable interactions or motivations, no book, no effort and the music is as thin as an atom. In fact, I feel bad for Alan Menken, known for delivering a knockout score or 38, for having to put up with this. Couple that with a cast who clearly struggles with each passing second, which I don’t entirely blame them given what they have to work with eight times a week. Yes, just close this show up and set the St. James Theater free to pick up a disaffected youth and/or counter culture moment show in the Hair or American Idiot molds (something that I associate that particular theater with).

When the “highlights” (well, kind of) are Raul Esparza wearing a mirror jacket and a pair of leather pants one scene apiece, you know that (1) clearly, I was more excited and interested about that then whatever was going on stage and (2) I am digging for the bottom of the barrel. Esparza is a charismatic performer with an amazing voice…if only he had material to live up to his talents.

As far as the supporting cast, Jessica Phillips, as the sheriff lady mother whose name I can’t be bothered with to look up, was not even playing…you know, a character. She was playing “girl” (and not in a Once sense), but more like “girl in blue jeans.” Because her stage fatigue and non-activity certainly did not convince me she was a sheriff or anything. The rest of them are more or less the same.

Oh, and casting directors? If you think you want to cast Louis Hobson or Talon Ackerman, I would double back and reconsider. I wouldn’t say this is their faults exactly, but they seem to be a show’s kiss of death as of late. My receipts? Just ask anyone who saw The People in the Picture, Bonnie and Clyde or this show…that is quite the body count. Another year or two and we are talking Kill Bill territory. Especially poor Ackerman, who gets cast as the most IRRITATING child in the history of children (yes, all children) with him rolling around in a wheelchair wanting to walk. What the...what?

Honestly, I have no idea how anyone could work on a show like this and not even address the atrocity they were making. I never want to be “that guy” who puts down a show begging for the audience's love (Literally), but this show absolutely deserves it. Now nominated for a Best Musical Tony – for some in-depth reason unbeknownst to me (Haha, good one. Cha-ching) - it really is the worst of all the evils that have sprung up since last June and it won’t be going anywhere until after the ceremony next month. I really hope that my beloved and charming Raul Esparza grabs his mirror jacket and leather pants and runs off to a theater to watch paint dry. Because watching Raul watch paint dry is more authentic, inoffensive and deep that is everything this show tries to be. And when paint is a better character then an entire ensemble…I think that says it all.

Photo Credit: Leap of Faith Facebook

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