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 Nightengale and Elizabeth Stanley as Marva 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

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]


Ben Brantley, in his review for The New York Times, wrote: " 'Leap of Faith' is this season’s black hole of musical comedy, sucking the energy out of anyone who gets near it... Jonas... is a figure with a long and nobly ignoble ancestry in the theater, the irresistible charlatan. He’s a type whose very existence depends on his ability to charm a crowd, to whip up emotions, to make us suspend disbelief. He is, in other words, showbiz incarnate... Mr. [Raúl] Esparza would seem to be a natural for such a part... Yet here Mr. Esparza seems to keep a chilly distance from his character, and you realize the degree to which self-consciousness has always been a part of his performances... But 'Faith' recycles its clichés without a shred of true conviction. Its jokes, its romantic scenes, its dance numbers, its interchangeable songs by Mr. [Alan] Menken... all feel as if they had been pasted into place the night before."[15]

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. "Theater Review. 'Leap of Faith,' With Raúl Esparza at St. James Theater" The New York Times, April 26, 2012

External links[edit]