Set in rural Georgia and complete with live music, The Greatest Story Ever Retold – Cotton Patch Gospel, music and lyrics by Harry Chapin, promises to delight audiences of all ages. Waterworks brings this toe-tapping full-length musical to the Heartland this weekend, September 21 and 22, and next weekend, September 28 and 29, at the Waterworks Theatre in Farmville.
Based on the book The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John by Clarence Jordon, the two-hour production retells the Gospel of Jesus with both humor and poignancy. The narrator, Matthew, IRS agent turned disciple, recounts the events of Jesus’ life from his birth in an abandoned trailer behind the Dixie Delights Motor Lodge and his lynching by a mob outside of Atlanta, to his subsequent glorious resurrection. The lively “Somethin’s Brewin’ in Gainesville,” kicks off the show and through music and colorful characterization, this fast-clipped play promises to entertain from start to finish.
A simplistic set provides the backdrop for local musicians, Sarah Anderson (banjo), Brenda Barringer (guitar/mandolin), Joe David Bass (bass), Edgar Critzer (guitar), Beau Elliott (bass), and Joshua Gilliland (mandolin), who are on stage throughout the entire production, entertaining with music that ranges from oldtime bluegrass to country to jazzy show tunes. Barringer, Waterworks Music Director, found Anderson, Bass and Gilliland at the Bluegrass Jam and the Open Mic Night at Buffalo Creek Guitar Company, a gathering place for local musicians and music lovers on East Third Street in Farmville. Audiences will want to sing along to songs such as John the Baptizer’s, “Sure Nuff – Good Lord is Coming’, Sure Nuff,” Jesus’ call to repentance, “Turn It Around,” the contemplative, “Lilies of the Field,” and a foot-stomping, “Ain’t No Busy Signals on the Hot Line to God,” with its flip side, “Spitball Me, Lord, Over the Home Plate of Life.”
Director, Dudley Sauve, once again brings talent to the Waterworks stage with the return of numerous veteran players, as well as the introduction of actors new to WW, most of whom play several characters. Jordan Whiley, appearing in his thirteenth WW production, commands the stage as Matthew, engaging the audience with lively narration and songs. Simon Johnson, better known as “Rock,” is played by Trospy Jarrett, a Jack-of-All-Trades at Waterworks. Ed Kinman returns to WW with an animated portrayal of various characters, from angel to devil. A newcomer to the local stage is Joshua Jarrett who assumes various roles, including the infamous role of Judd Iscariot. Joe Godburn plays Joe Davidson (Joseph), John the Baptizer, and is totally convincing as a “hallelujah” Pentecostal preacher. Amanda Lennox (disciple) and Christina Lobe (Mary) provide strong female voices to the otherwise male-dominant cast. Of course, the play centers on the character of Jesus, played by another WW newcomer, Brandon Nuckols. Nuckols spectacularly develops his character from the awkward country boy living in Gainesville, Georgia, to a defender of righteousness as he rebukes Satan with the words, “Man does not live by grits alone,” to teacher of truth and miracle worker on Stone Mountain, to his triumphant week in Atlanta, that culminates in His resurrection and return to his disciples whom he joins for a cup of coffee and pecan pie.
Adapted for the stage by Tom Key and Russell Treyz, Cotton Patch Gospel has been performed on stages across America since its off-Broadway premiere more than twenty years ago. Before the play became a full-length musical with the help of well-known composer Harry Chapin, best known for his hit songs “Cat’s in the Cradle” and “Taxi,” Key actually performed it as a one-man show, assuming the roles of dozens of characters. He testifies that he wrote the stage play due to his own passion for telling the gospel story in a fresh way and that many who have seen the show or acted in it have had a life-changing religious experience. It is a show not to be missed. Come, plan to relax and enjoy, as the lively cast takes you on a familiar journey employing the refreshing twist of unfamiliar territory…..Jesus in Georgia????????
Curtain time is 8:00pm on both Friday and Saturday nights, September 21,22 and September 28,29. Reservations can be made either by calling 434.392.3452 or online at www.waterworksplayers.org. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.