Saturday, April 8, 2017

When Broadway Takes You to Church

The other day I was on the subway heading into the studio to record an interview, and I was getting my gospel LIFE.   It is not a surprise that at any given moment there is a show tune playing on my ipod.  On this particular day, the most delightful melange of Broadway songs randomly played in my head.  Having had the opportunity to see a lot of musical theater on Broadway, these songs brought back memories of being transported to a good old Black Baptist church with the amazing choir all, while sitting in a Broadway theater.  I have always said that in many ways, I worship at the Church of Broadway.  I guess that I should not be surprised about how the music was going to affect me.  Please consider that I am technically a backslider, when it comes to my church attendance.   If I get a hold of the latest cast recording of a show, or I find a classic cast recording at the library,  then I do feel a connection to the higher power that music gives me access within my own joyous spirit.

On this particular day, these songs reminded me of the moments that I heard them for the first time in the theatre.  I immediately returned to the big gospel events that I attended growing up in Texas. Some of those choirs truly can blow the roof off of the venue and get God on speed dial.  In a really weird way, I was having my own personal revival in my head.

 So the first song was Rise Up from Leap of Faith.  The sweet musical that luckily got a cast recording made.  To see this number live in the St. James Theater was pretty awesome.  Being a fan of the dreamy Raul Esparza makes me love this clip even more.  Ms. Kecia Lewis is everything in this clip.  I left this show hoping that the world would see how good it was, but most times, you can never predict what will work and thrive on Broadway.

Then the the next song that clicked into my ipod after this was "Make Me Stronger" from the Tony Award winning Best Musical MEMPHIS, available on DVD.  Now this song features friend to the podcast, Montego Glover, leading the choir.  Now I must confess that my home church's choir did not have the pizazz of this choir.  To be truthful, we were not the hippest of the scene and very traditional. There was no organized sway, much less a Run for Jesus moment, like the one Montego does in this clip.  I remember sitting in the audience on my birthday in Schubert Theater. When this number started, I could feel the hair rising on my arms, and the presence of something special was happening.  I did everything in my power to contain myself, because I knew that as sophisticated as NY audiences are, only a certain number of us know how deep a good gospel choir can get in you.  Before you know it, you are standing up in your seat, clapping, and saying stuff like "Sho Nuff" and "Yes Lawd!", and "Thank you Jesus!"  I only imagine that doing this number 8 shows a week, some audience member was touched by the spirit.  I know that I was. 

Of course, when you think the subway ride into Manhattan could not get any more sanctified, the song that sends me EVERY time from the Tony Award Winning Best Revival, The Color Purple also recent Grammy Award winning Broadway Cast Recording, is "Opening/Mysterious Ways".  Now when my friend Rema Webb and her fellow cast mates open this show, you cannot help to feel that worship is about to start at the 11am service.  I will say that the fact that there is also a teenager having apparently her second baby at the same time does not really deter from the energy,  and Tony and Grammy Award winning Cynthia Erivo does work a cloth.  She slays in the role of Miss Celie. When you really listen to those words of inspiration, and you think about how the story in Color Purple unfolds, you can see the power. It is also about how the simplicity of those voices, blended with the simplicity of sets and props, make you feel like you were in church and YES,  we are picking up Popeye's right after service. I know there is a handful of you that knows EXACTLY what that last sentence means.  You know that the Lord is with you if you can get that cajun rice side and those biscuits.   Happy Sunday!

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