Leap Of Faith by Minneapolis Musical Theatre performing at The New Century Theatre

The Angels Of Mercy (featuring Brianna Graham) in Leap Of Faith.  Photo: Lisa Persson.

The Angels Of Mercy (featuring Brianna Graham) in Leap Of Faith. Photo: Lisa Persson.

Perusing the program for Leap Of Faith (Minneapolis Musical Theatre performing in The New Century Theatre, through May 22), I made an interesting discovery: that I was familiar with no one. The actors, the chorus, the director, the designers, the musicians, the techies, all strangers (to me).

Now. I could put on my fuddy-duddy, dyspeptic Critic hat and take these newcomers to task for amateurish performances. But I don’t have the energy and, besides, you don’t want me to. Instead, I’ll praise the spirit and passion these artists bring to the proceedings. They attack Leap Of Faith with brio, élan and zest, working up a lovely lather and milking every song, every moment, for all it’s worth. Would they pass muster at the hoity-toity Flying G? Probably not, but for pure vitality and fervency, Leap Of Faith can’t be beat.

Leap Of Faith (a musicalization of a 1993 Steve Martin film) concerns a passionate preacher, Jonas, who runs aground in deepest darkest Texas. He puts up his revival tent and sets about milking the town for every dime it’s got. The local sheriff has sex with him, then tries to stop him (?). Her paraplegic son wants Jonas to cure him. Complications ensue. Songs are sung.

Emily Jansen brings a moving emotionality, a touching tentativeness, to her portrait of Sheriff Marla. As sister Sam, Jill Iverson thrills (and sings a gorgeous “People Like Us.”) Sonya Nolen-Moon has tremendous presence (those fingernails! Please, God, never let this woman become angry with me). Andrew Hey brings intensity and genuine power to Jake, the paraplegic son. Brandon A. Jackson as judgemental Isaiah, Brianna Graham, everyone. The power they generate is undeniable.

And, of course, as Preacher Jonas, Matt Tatone keeps things zipping along, with a nifty combination of anger, energy and musical chops.

Leap Of Faith features music by the great Alan Menken (Little Shop Of Horrors, Beauty And The Beast, The Little Mermaid, et al). The music is tuneful and toe-tappingly anthemic. “Rise Up!” “I Can Read You,” “Leap Of Faith.” Lovely. The music – almost – obscures the fact that the story has holes through which you could drive a convoy of trucks. (I suspect that bookists Janus Cercone and Warren Leight are persons of interest in this regard as well.)

So. If you demand that the plays you attend make sense, build appropriately, and are performed by experienced and seasoned performers, well, Leap Of Faith may not be for you. But for pure verve and fire, this may well be your cup o’ tea. Definitely see-worthy.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book about the magic of bedtime stories, Tell Me A Story In The Dark, has been published. For more info, please visit John’s website.



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