Daniel O'Connell and 'the angels'. Photo: Chloe Snaith

Posted by & filed under Arts & Entertainment, Theatre & Performance.

It may have been a gamble when the Rockdale Musical Society decided on producing this lesser known musical, but thanks to a delightful story, a soaring musical score, a dedicated creative team and an enigmatic cast – it is one that pays off.

Based off the 1992 film of the same name, Leap of Faith follows the exploits of charismatic conman the ‘Reverend’ Jonas Nightingale and his travelling ministry of merry crooks. When their bus breaks down in a small, drought-stricken Kansas town, they pitch their tent and invite in the locals for a revival. Promising to save their souls, they intend to take these small town folk for all they’ve got before they skip town.

Daniel O’Connell is suitably magnetic as Jonas Nightingale, and matched against Jessica James-Moody as the cynical town Sheriff – who is hellbent on keeping Jonas and his shady ministry away from her downtrodden townspeople and optimistic, wheelchair-bound son – their comedic repertoire and believable chemistry rivals even that of big budget stage romances.

Jonas’ rag-tag choir of ‘angels’ led by his tough-as-nails sister Sam (Tanya Boyle), along the bumbling townspeople, are full of life and character. The sub-plots scattered throughout all wrap up in a nice package by the final curtain.

The creative team of this production are each well established in their own right; with director Elle Zattera, choreographer Craig Nhobbs and musical director Josh Ransom. This production plays up the sincere, melodramatic script and the performance value of the gospel score for all they’re worth.

The set is refined and well considered with some eye-catching focal points, and the large and varied cast pull off some exciting choreography. The singers, from the younger to the more established performers, are all superb – especially classically trained New Zealander April-Marie Neho as Ida Mae Sturdevant, whose soulful voice commands the choir of ‘angels’.

Not every community theatre show is afforded a live orchestra or a theatre space as expansive as that offered by Rockdale Town Hall, and Rockdale Musical Society use them to the best of their abilities (despite the muffled acoustics of the venue at times making it difficult for the cast to be heard over the band).

There’s a sense of community spirit in the room and just a touch of roughness around the edges. Take ‘a leap of faith’ and be rewarded by a show that will leave you grinning from ear-to-ear. (AM)

Until Sep 18, Fri–Sun, evenings and matinees. Rockdale Town Hall, 448 Princess Highway, Rockdale. $32-$39. Tickets & info: www.rockdalemusicalsociety.com