In a Leap of Faith on Broadway
a Con Man Gets Convictions at the St. James Theatre!
A SoundPress.net Event Feature by Rich and Laura Lynch

Leap of Faith is a new Broadway adaptation of the Steve Martin movie currently running at the St. James Theater at 246 W. 44th Street in New York City. The first act begins with a breakdown scene and the second act follows the cast as they wait on a miracle. After the initial reviews from national media came out following the play's opening on April 26, 2012 this structure of the plot could serve as a parable for the theatrical production.

LEAP OF FAITH on Broadway

That's not to say the show isn't good. Leap of Faith is a musically uplifting tale of life, love and redemption and there are enough redeeming qualities in the two and a quarter hour presentation to keep the patrons believing. It's just that as the story unfolds it doesn't take a biblical prophet to see what's coming next.

Soundpress.net attended the matinee preview performance of Leap Of Faith of April 25, 2012 and when the curtain rose an old-time revival broke out on stage. Leap of Faith relies heavily on tried and true Broadway techniques. The first was making the audience feel like they are part of the action. The play kicked into high gear with the crowd-pleasing gospel infused opener, "Rise Up!".

The talented Angels of Mercy choir emerged on stage - dancing, singing and encouraging the attendees to clap along - depicting the rapturous climax of an old-time religious road show.

Next, Jonas Nightingale - played by Raul Esparza a four-time Tony Award nominee - stepped up to share his testimony. Nightingale's story starts with the group's bus breaking down in Sweetwater. The small town was desperate for rain and in a depressed state. Jonas - along with his sister and bookkeeper Sam - plot to pump Sweetwater for cash as they pitch their colorful tent in town.

Sweetwater's attractive female sheriff Marla McGowan soon arrives. She was not fooled for a moment by the slick talking Jonas as told in the sly duet, "Fox in the Henhouse". Still, she allows the group to stay three nights as their transport is being fixed. There are more interactions with Nightingale and McGowan and ultimately sparks fly between the leads in "I Can Read You".

Jake is a cute child in a wheelchair who insists that he going to the revival with the faith that Jonas will heal him. Nightingale meets Jake and the two become friendly in "Like Magic". Jake again declares that he will soon walk. The shady Jonas, knowing he is a hustler and not a healer, does not want to disappoint the likable kid. Jonas tells Sam they will simple shift the blame for the lack of a miracle to the community who did not "believe enough".

Each night of the revival featured inspiring up-tempo show tunes progressing in power as the event unfolded. The townspeople who attended the celebrations were lined up along the stage making them part of the viewing audience. Baskets were handed out into the crowd for the audience to show their "faith". All real money collected during the performances will be donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.

A common approach on Broadway is the reprisal and Leap of Faith uses this at a number of points as threads and themes re-appear throughout the songs and show. It is expected that Broadway performers are some of the best in the world and Leap of Faith has its share of talented troubadours who aptly handled their solos mixed in with the dialogue on decision making, life and lies.

Although we were entertained, it is likely that seasoned theater goers will consider the production "predictable". Leap of Faith does not have any miraculous plots, ploys or set design to make it rise above the pack of plays on the Great White Way. This means that its success will rely heavily on the popularity of its lead Raul Esparza. Time will tell if Raul in the role of the charismatic charlatan can convince New Yorkers and tourists to attend his rockin' revival on Broadway.

Leap of Faith is veritable family fun and entertainment regardless of your religious beliefs. A persuasive plot of faith, hope and love unfolds on 44th Street in a production that abounds with blessings. Still, it remains to be seen if the cast and performers will be convincing enough to clear some of the heretical hurdles required to win the hearts and minds of their audience night after night.

The afternoon performance let out at around 4:30 p.m. - just in time to take in an early dinner. We stayed on 46th Street but headed down three long blocks to try the award-winning and much lauded fair provided by Daisy May's BBQ USA on 11th Avenue.

Daisy May's has been voted #1 BBQ by Zagat for 4 years in a row. It is a casual place where you place your order at the counter and a few minutes later your food is ready. We sat in the clean family style seating area to enjoy our meal. The Jack Daniel Pulled Chicken plate with two sides was very tasty and the portions were generous.

The proprietor of the establishment was friendly and made it a point to inquire how we discovered the restaurant and checked in with us again to see how we liked it. Well, we enjoyed our visit, loved the food, and we'll be back again to sample the pork ribs and some of the other ten or so fixins' real soon.

LEAP OF FAITH on Broadway

Related Links: For more information on LEAP OF FAITH and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Leap Of Faith | Daisy May's BBQ

(Originally Published on April 27, 2012)

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