'Leap of Faith' sets out on the road to Broadway
It was billed as an informal presentation for investors, but the mood inside the Little Shubert Theatre some eight months ago was nearly as energized as opening night on Broadway. Several hundred potential backers crowded into the midtown Manhattan theater to hear the first of three staged readings of “Leap of Faith,” the long-in-the-works adaptation of the 1992 Steve Martin movie.
At that Jan. 14 performance in New York, the musical was a bit all over the place—the first act was nearly two hours long, and secondary characters (such as the local sheriff) had epic songs that tended to repeat a lot of the narrative in “Leap of Faith’s” book. There wasn’t any dancing, including the ballet sequences that director/choreographer Rob Ashford subsequently added to the show’s world premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre. But much of the core story—hustling preacher comes to small town, is bowled over by single mom—was there, as was composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater’s gospel score.
A lot of people agreed the show needed to be cut down and focused, but as the crowd walked out into the evening’s winter chill, they had warm thoughts about “Leap of Faith’s” future.
Now the show is poised to open in Los Angeles, with Brooke Shields replacing the workshop’s Sutton Foster as single mom Marva McGowan and Raul Esparza (who has been with the show for more than three years) as faith healer Jonas Nightingale. Take a look at my story on how the show came together, and some of the “Leap of Faith” creative issues still to be resolved, in the Sunday Arts & Books section.
Photo: From left, Harvey Evans, Raul Esparza, Brooke Shields and Nicholas Barasch in a diner scene during dress rehearsal for "Leap of Faith" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times
[updated: an earlier version of this post misspelled Nicholas Barasch's last name.]