Leap of Faith (musical)

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Leap of Faith
Broadway Playbill cover
MusicAlan Menken
LyricsGlenn Slater
BookJanus Cercone, Glenn Slater
Basis1992 Film Leap of Faith
Productions2010 Los Angeles
2012 Broadway (St. James Theatre)

Leap of Faith is a stage musical based on the 1992 American movie of the same name, which starred Steve Martin. The music is by Alan Menken, with lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Janus Cercone and Slater about a con man posing as a man of faith, who is redeemed by the love of a good woman.

The musical premiered in September 2010 in Los Angeles for a limited run through October, directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford.[1] The musical opened on Broadway in April 2012.

Production history[edit]

A workshop was held in May 2008, with Taylor Hackford directing. The cast included Raul Esparza as Jonas Nightingale and Elizabeth Stanley as Marla McGowan.[2] At the time, producer Tom Viertel said :"As with any productive workshop of a new musical, we learned a lot about 'Leap of Faith' last month, including what works well and what needs work. But we have no plans and have made no decisions to alter the creative team in any way whatsoever."[3]

Another workshop was held in New York in early 2010, with Sutton Foster and a new director, Rob Ashford.[4]

Leap of Faith, with Rob Ashford as director and choreographer, made its world premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Previews commenced on September 11, 2010, opening night was on October 3, with the run ending October 24.[5][6][7][8]

The show opened on Broadway at the St. James Theatre in previews on April 3, 2012, officially on April 26.[9] Raul Esparza, Jessica Phillips and Kendra Kassebaum played the lead roles, with direction by Christopher Ashley and choreography by Sergio Trujillo.[9][10] The book was revised by Warren Leight.[11] Menken discussed the style of the songs: "Menken told Playbill.com that his score is flavored with the sounds of gospel, country and American roots music."[9]

The production closed on May 13, 2012 after 24 previews and 20 performances. It was reported (by The New York Times) that the entire $14 million investment was lost.[12]


Note: Based on the Broadway production[11]

A con artist, the "Reverend" Jonas Nightingale, travels with his ministry, but his bus breaks down in a small Kansas town. The some-time reverend pitches a tent and invites the townspeople to a revival. However, the sheriff, a woman named Marla McGowan, is determined to stop Jonas from taking the people's money. Jonas is challenged when he becomes romantically involved with the sheriff. Her love forces the cynical Reverend to come to terms with his life.

Musical numbers[edit]

Cast and characters[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Los Angeles[edit]

The Backstage reviewer wrote: "Though the overlong show improves marginally during the home stretch, its story and themes never fully cohere, and the derivative, gospel-driven Alan Menken-Glenn Slater score is disappointing. By inserting superfluous Agnes de Mille-style ballet segments, as if this were a modern-day Rodgers-and-Hammerstein opus, and pumping up the volume and the histrionics, it's clear Menken, director-choreographer Rob Ashford, and co-librettists Slater and Janus Cercone envisioned this adaptation as more of an artsy prestige musical than a sentimental bromide for "The Sound of Music" crowd...Esparza has a dynamic singing voice and is a formidable presence, but his Mephistophelean con man seems a shade too smarmy for us to buy into his eventual redemption. The performer also sometimes indulges in a mush-mouthed Brando broodiness that seems inappropriate here. Shields sings sweetly if not spectacularly and provides a welcome note of calmness amid the boisterous goings-on."[13]

The Los Angeles Times reviewer wrote: "...much of the score is derivative, the dancing often seems like ballet school parody, Shields' singing defensively retreats to the safest possible key and the closing moments are pure sentimental hokum. But there's a fascinating character in the middle of it all, and a performance by Esparza that digs deep into questions of faith, love and mystery. The show needs another overhaul, but it's easy to see why the creators have persisted for so long with this project: There's something uniquely compelling in the source material. I hope the collaborators press on (Broadway is apparently in their sights). They can begin with some radical pruning."[14]


The show received mixed-to-negative reviews on Broadway, with critics writing generally of the show's unsurprising and predictable plot, Esparza's hardworking performance (whether for good or ill), and a bland and confused tone.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times called the show "this season's black hole of musical comedy, sucking the energy out of anyone who gets near it." He criticized Esparza for "[seeming] to keep a chilly distance from his character," and the show in general for working in "bad faith" and "[recycling] its clichés without a shred of true conviction."[15] Erik Haagensen of Backstage called the "ersatz musical" "a compendium of formulaic characters and cliched situations all too obviously cribbed from better and more original works"[16]; and Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News wrote that "nothing happens in this frustrating and manipulative new Broadway musical [...] you don't see coming a mile away."[17]

Dziemianowicz also called Esparza's performance "big, bold and a little buggy, but [...] never boring,"[17] while Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post (in a highly positive review) called his performance somewhat "sinister," but also alluring ("[Y]ou can also see why the good people of Sweetwater would so eagerly swallow Jonas's hooks: He's got some bright, snazzy lures.")[18] Scott Brown of New York Magazine, however, called Esparza "transparently shifty" and "[seeming] to be winking at his marks at every turn," and wrote that "there's not an ounce of adequately feigned sincerity in him."[19]

Brown also described the show as "persistently confused [...] in tone, content, and mood," and that "Leap feels like the not-awful, not-wonderful product of a long series of compromises"[19]; Elysa Gardner of USA Today (in a 2 1/2-star out of 4 review) called it "an odd, uneasy mix of souped-up razzle-dazzle and earnest romantic drama"[20]; and David Cote of Time Out New York (in a 2 out of 5-star review) called the show "bland and confused," "never [finding] the right proportion of comic cynicism to wide-eyed spiritual wonder[.]"[21]

Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal called the show "as slick as ice on Teflon," lacking in "sweat and heart" - but that "if you're looking for pure Broadway razzmatazz, Leap of Faith delivers the goods"[22]

Some critics, however, were more positive. Vincentelli wrote that while "you can see everything coming a mile away" in the show, "[t]he only surprise is [...] how ridiculously fun it is" - and that "[i]f there's a lesson in Leap of Faith, it's that high-energy entertainment is the perfect sweetener[.]"[18] Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribute wrote that the show was "actually an interesting new American musical that, in its best moments, takes a look at a side of America that musicals usually fly right over," while praising the "admirably complex" Esparza as "the guy you want in your show when your leading character is having a crisis of faith," and that the show "delivers, with considerable flourish, the always-useful message that the more you think you know about life, the less the truth reveals itself."[23] David Finkle of Theatermania described Esparza's performance as "his finest [...] to date", and praised the show for having three of that Broadway seasons' best musical numbers (in "I Can Read You," "Dancin' in the Devil's Shoes" and "Are You On the Bus?")[24]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2012 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Book of a Musical Janus Cercone and Warren Leight Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Raúl Esparza Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Christopher Ashley Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Sergio Trujillo Nominated
Outstanding Music Alan Menken Nominated


  1. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Leap of Faith, Menken's Gospel-Filled Musical Comedy, Will Premiere in L.A." Archived 2010-01-31 at the Wayback Machine Playbill.com, January 28, 2010
  2. ^ Gans, Andrew and Hernandez, Ernio."Esparza, Kassebaum, White, Mann and More Take a Leap of Faith in Musical Workshop" Archived 2011-01-18 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, April 30, 2008
  3. ^ Riedel, Michael."No 'Faith' in Director"The New York Post, June 20, 2008
  4. ^ Horn, John.Musical makes one 'Leap of Faith' after anotherLos Angeles Times, September 26, 2010
  5. ^ Fick, David."Take A Leap Of Faith: Previews Start Tonight" Musical Cyberspace, September 11, 2010
  6. ^ a b "'Leap of Faith' production listing, Ahmanson Theatre, 2010" Archived 2010-09-05 at the Wayback Machine centertheatregroup.org, retrieved December 25, 2010
  7. ^ Hodgind, Paul."'Leap of Faith' review Archived 2011-07-23 at the Wayback Machine ocregister.com, October 4, 2010
  8. ^ Jones, Kenneth "Leap of Faith, the Musical, Will Premiere in L.A. in September; Ashford Directs" Archived 2010-05-27 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, April 22, 2010
  9. ^ a b c Jones, Kenneth. " 'Leap of Faith', With Raúl Esparza at the Musical Pulpit, Opens on Broadway" playbill.com, April 26, 2012
  10. ^ Cerasaro, Pat."Alan Menken Talks Tangled, Sister Act, Leap Of Faith, Hunchback, Aladdin & More" broadwayworld.com, November 15, 2010
  11. ^ a b c Jones, Kenneth. Come All Ye Faithful: Raúl Esparza Begins Preaching in Broadway's Leap of Faith April 3" Archived 2012-04-17 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, April 3, 2012
  12. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "'Leap of Faith', the Musical, Pulls Down Its Broadway Tent May 13" Archived 2012-05-18 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, May 13, 2012
  13. ^ (no author). "LA Theatre Reviews, 'Leap Of Faith'", backstage.com, October 4, 2010 (retrieved December 26, 2010)
  14. ^ McNulty, Charles. "THEATER REVIEW;It takes faith", Los Angeles Times, October 5, 2010, P.1, Part D
  15. ^ Brantley, Ben (2012-04-26). "'Leap of Faith,' With Raúl Esparza at St. James Theater". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  16. ^ "NY Review: 'Leap of Faith'". www.backstage.com. 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  17. ^ a b Dziemianowicz, Joe. "Theater review: 'Leap of Faith'". nydailynews.com. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  18. ^ a b Vincentelli, Elisabeth (2012-04-27). "Celebrate 'Leap' here". New York Post. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  19. ^ a b Brown, Scott (April 26, 2012). "Theater Review: "Leap of Faith" Falls Short". Vulture. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  20. ^ "'Leap of Faith' doesn't quite soar". USATODAY.COM. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  21. ^ "Leap of Faith | in New York". Time Out New York. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  22. ^ Teachout, Terry (2012-04-26). "Ersatz Antique". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  23. ^ Jones, Chris. "'Leap of Faith' is a musical with a message". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  24. ^ "Leap of Faith | TheaterMania". www.theatermania.com. Retrieved 2019-06-12.

External links[edit]