Sometimes all you need is a little revival music to lift your spirits, and Minneapolis Musical Theatre’s Leap of Faith did just that for me opening night. This isn’t an ordinary revival, however. It’s led by con-man Jonas and his sister Sam, along with their “Angels of Mercy.” Their bus has broken down outside Sweetwater, so they figure they may as well scam the draught- and poverty-stricken townspeople while they’re waiting for their engine parts to come in.
Matt Tatone hits the sweet spot with Jonas – charming and handsome… but kind of a dick. The town sheriff Marla (Emily Jansen) can smell a fox in her hen house, and these two have great chemistry as they navigate a roller coaster of emotions between them. You see, Marla’s son Jake (Andrew Hey) is confined to a wheelchair but he believes Jonas can heal him, which puts Marla in quite the predicament as she wrestles with romantic feelings for Jonas, knowing that Jake can’t be healed.
Jonas’ conscience starts to eat away at him as he gets to know Marla and Jake, but his sister Sam (Jill Iverson) is a mastermind at manipulating anyone participating at the revivals. Will she get her way and get Jake on stage to be healed?
Leap of Faith draws you in immediately with the song “Rise Up!” thanks to an energetic cast and toe-tapping music. There is not a weak spot in the cast, but if Brandon A Jackson happened to do a solo show, I’d have no complaints. From his sideways leers at Jonas to his amazingly powerful voice, his Isaiah is easily one of my favorite characters in the show.
If the title Leap of Faith sounds familiar, you may remember it as a 1992 movie starring Steve Martin and Debra Winger. Academy and Tony Award winner Alan Menken (Newsies, Sister Act, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast) wrote the music, with lyrics by Glenn Slater, and book by Janus Cercone and Warren Leight. Director Sara Pillatzki-Warzeha utlizes the space flawlessly, and the show truly makes you feel like you’re a part of the action. Vocal and Artistic Director Christian Unser has pulled out the best in the cast, with some backup help from the Twin Cities Community Gospel Choir as additional Angels of Mercy. And let’s not forget the playful choreography of Emily Madigan – in her choreography debut for professional theater!
New Century Theatre almost felt too small for such a big show, but MMT has played this one just right. From uplifting music to a dynamic cast, a well-told story and excellent use of space, Leap of Faith is a feel-good musical that’s fun for the whole family. It runs through May 22, and May 9 is a Pay What You Can performance. Click here to purchase tickets.
Minneapolis Musical Theatre: Leap of Faith
April 29 – May 22
New Century Theatre
612 Hennepin Avenue #145
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