|Photo credit: Joan Marcus|
Leap of Faith, based on the 1992 Steve Martin movie, opened at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in October, 2010. It was directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford, replaced by Memphis's director, Christopher Ashley, and choreographer, Sergio Trujillo for the Broadway production. Warren Leight was recruited to fix the book by Janus Cercone and Glenn Slater. Alan Menken and Slater remained as composer and lyricist.
The ballet that opened the show in LA isn't missed, but the new conceit is that Jonas Nightingale has set up a religious revival at the St. James and we are his audience. It's not a bad idea, but the characters actually stop during the show to explain their actions, which is not only lazy, but shows a lack of faith (sorry about the choice of words) in the audience.
This isn't my favorite Menken score--the gospel numbers all sound similar (do we really need two Menken gospel musicals on Broadway), but there were a few memorable songs: "I Can Read You," a more traditional musical theater duet, helped by the chemistry of Esparza and Phillips and "Are You on the Bus?" which showcases the powerhouse vocals of Krystal Joy Brown, who deserves a better musical to showcase her talents, as does the appealing Leslie Odom, Jr. And then there's Esparza, whose dedication to this show is admirable. He works really hard on that stage and has moments of intense brilliance, especially in the 11 o'clock number "Jonas's Soliloquy" (unfortunately in front of a starry background--Robin Wagner did the sets), but even his performance seems to be missing something since the LA run.