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10 Shows with Divine Inspiration


Sean Hayes in "An Act of God."

Photo by Jim Cox

An Act of God, which plays the Ahmanson Theatre through March 13, 2016, isn’t the only divinely inspired show to grace stages on Broadway and around the country. Many theatre productions with religious aspects, both satirical and serious, have become major hits. To prepare yourself for the awe-inspiring majesty of witnessing God inhabit Sean Hayes at the Ahmanson, here are 10 shows taking religion to new heights.

  1. The Book of Mormonfrom South Park creators Trey Park and Matt Stone and lyricist and composer Robert Lopez (also of Frozen fame), is a satirical and deeply scathing take on the Church of Latter Day Saints and its titular book. The musical became a smash hit, earning a slew of Tony Award® nominations and winning a total of nine, including Best Musical, in 2011.
  2. Jesus Christ Superstar follows the last two weeks of Jesus Christ from the perspective of disciple-turned-betrayer Judas Iscariot, and contains allusions to the modern world, slang, and other anachronisms. Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Tim Rice, the show began as a rock opera concept album before becoming a full-length production.
  3. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was the first Lloyd Webber-Rice collaboration to mount a production—at St. Paul’s Junior School in London. This Old Testament story of a boy whose jealous brothers sold him into slavery is Lloyd Weber’s most produced musical in the United States and a perennial favorite of professional and amateur theatres around the world.
  4. Godspell, an adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew, began as a non-musical college performance project at Carnegie Mellon University, then moved to La MaMa in New York, where it was discovered by a producing team that wanted to make it into a musical. Armed with a new score by Stephen Schwartz that spanned pop and folk rock to gospel and vaudeville, it opened Off-Broadway in 1971 as a musical, was adapted for film in 1973, and premiered on Broadway in 1976. The show is so popular that Madonna, Lady Gaga, Jeremy Irons, Queen Latifah, Donna Summer, Paul Shaffer, and Jon Hamm all have it somewhere on their résumés, and it has even spawned a slightly shorter children’s version, Godspell Junior.
  5. God Hates Musicals: A Musical Parody of The Westboro Baptist Church was created as an artistic response to the infamous Topeka, K.S. church. The show opened at Boston University’s TheatreLab@855 in 2014. Taking aim not only at Westboro Baptist but also U.S. television coverage of tragic incidents such as the Boston Marathon bombing, it features delightfully profane lyrics and a set of gay star-crossed lovers.
  6. Children of Eden chronicles the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and finally, Noah and the Flood. The script originated as Family Tree, a production created by Youth Sing Praise, a religious theatre camp, before being adapted by Stephen Schwartz (who also composed the Godspell score) and John Caird. Though the show has enjoyed popularity around the world, including a run on London’s West End, it has never played Broadway.
  7. A Very Merry Unauthorized Childrens Scientology Pageant is a satire billed a “deadpan presentation” of the life and writings of Church of Scientology founder and science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard by its creators, Kyle Jarrow and Alex Timbers. Despite numerous intimidations and allusions to legal action by the Church of Scientology, including calls from church members in the entertainment industry to parents of the performers, the show has played in cities including Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
  8. Leap of Faith premiered at the Ahmanson in 2010 before moving to Broadway for a brief run. Both the show and the 1992 movie it was based on, which starred Steve Martin, tell the story of a faith healer/con artist who pitches his tent in a Kansas town and finds himself falling for a woman who challenges the way he sees the world.
  9. Sister Act was adapted from the 1992 comedy film, with a book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane, lyrics by Glenn Slater, and music by Alan Menken. The musical follows lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier into the witness protection program at the convent The Holy Order of the Little Sisters of Our Mother of Perpetual Faith, where she shakes up the choir and the community.
  10. Altar Boyz was the ninth-longest-running Off-Broadway musical of all time after its 2004 premiere at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. A satirical musical presented as concert for the eponymous fictitious Christian boy-band, it parodies both popular Christian music and the boy-band archetype. Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker wrote the music and lyrics, and Kevin Del Aguila wrote the book. 
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