Sunday, May 6, 2012

Leap of Faith **

(Please click on the title to see the full review.)
As a fan of Raul Esparza, I jumped at the opportunity to see this much-maligned Broadway musical at a steep discount. Although the part does not show him to best advantage, it still offers the pleasure of seeing him onstage again. The show has many flaws, but it is not the total disaster some of the critics would have you believe. Jessica Phillips is fine as the love interest/antagonist and Kecia Lewis-Evans is terrific as leader of the gospel choir. Alan Menken's music is an improvement over his score for Newsies, but still unmemorable. Glenn Slater's lyrics are bland. The set by Robin Wagner moves around effectively without calling too much attention to itself. The costumes by William Ivey Long are suitably colorful. Don Holder's lighting unfortunately illuminates the bald head of the conductor, who is awkwardly placed right up against the stage. The choreography by Sergio Trujillo is pedestrian. The book by Janus Cercone (who wrote the screenplay for the 1992 film) and Warren Leight has its bumpy spots. It's one of the rare shows that improves in the second act. Christopher Ashley directed. The big question for me is why they undertook this project in the first place. If you've seen 110 in the Shade, The Music Man or Elmer Gantry, you've already seen a far better version of the story of a con man descending on an innocent Midwestern town. Leap of Faith adds nothing to the mix, except that is does provide employment for several fine black actors and therefore is drawing a more racially diverse audience than is usual on Broadway. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes including intermission.

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