A moderately successful 1992 film starring Steve Martin, Leap Of Faith was re-written as a stage musical in 2010 by original screenwriter Janus Cercone (later revised by Warren Leight). Award winning lyricist Glenn Slater and composer Alan Menken penned the songs, but even with those impressive credits, Leap Of Faith has never been a favoured musical among critics and is not often staged.
This production by North Shore Theatre Company brings some warmth and heart to a plot that borders on cynical and characters that are pretty despicable.
Jonas Nightingale (Mateo Morchio) is a con-artist dressed in Miracle Worker’s clothing. He is travelling through Kansas with his sister and partner in crime, Sam (Taggie Ennis) and his troupe of “angels”. When their bus breaks down in a small, drought-cursed town called Sweetwater, the group decides to pitch tent, hold a revival and relieve the residents of their pitifully little cash. Things go awry when Jonas has an immediate run-in with the Sheriff, Marla (Michaela Leisk) whose wheelchair ridden son, Jake (Nile Sturzaker) has already been targeted by the gang as their patsy. There are unexpected conversions, an unlikely romance and maybe even a miracle or two.
Morchio is very charismatic in the lead role, injecting that element of subtle sexuality and devilish charm needed to make Jonas likeable. Ennis is a tough, unflappable Sam with solid presence. Leisk does well with Marla which is an under-written role but gets some powerful moments. Rachel Gillfeather is the standout voice, belting out sassy soul as “mother angel” Ida Mae. Her onstage daughter, Ornella (Carmel Rodrigues) shares similar vocal virtuosity.
It’s a fun ride with some life lessons thrown in and accidental reference to the current social climate.
Until Oct 14. The Independent Theatre, 269 Miller St, North Sydney. $35-$47.50+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.theindependent.org.au
By Rita Bratovich