Writing Musicals

I recently finished writing our thirteenth Bible Action Musical here at the Florissant Church of Christ.  We began doing musical Bible stories for the shear joy and purpose of simply telling a story from the Bible to our community.  I called the ministry Bible Action so that we could maintain a foundation while changing stories every year.  This year we are doing a trilogy of parables under the title of Phractured Parables.  While the three stories came from the parables of Jesus, the reason they are “phractured” is because I have transformed the stories into modern times.  Actually, two are contemporary and the middle one is done in a wild west setting, with ranchers and cowboys in pre-law-abiding Texas.  We have nineteen songs this year with our usual combination of praise song, old Rock & Roll songs, and some Broadway-type numbers.  I have added three contemporary Christian numbers this year that I think everyone will really enjoy.  It is going to be fun, but different.  The entire cast will remain on stage through all three Acts as a chorus-in-the-round type setting, and the three Acts will each have completely separate casts – I hope.

We are doing the parable of the workers.  The one about laborers being hired at different times of the day but all being paid the same by the employer.  It’s a great lesson about grace.  The second parable is the parable of the Vineyard, when the king left workers in charge of his vineyard and they decided to take it over – even killing his only son.  This is the one that will be a western.  The last parable is the most well known of the three – I would guess.  It’s the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, but our story takes place in modern day Manhattan, and Lazarus is a street person who’s a veteran.  The Rich family won’t help him and are very upset that he’s refused to leave the street where they live.

If you are in the area on May 1st, June 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, come by and enjoy our show.  We have been blessed with wonderful crowds every year, with folks traveling from Memphis, Nashville, and Kansas City just to see it.  It’s free and we’ll even send you a free DVD of the play when they are made.  Come and join us.

Writing a musical is very different than anything else I write.  I have several parameters that a must work with, not the least of which is making sure I have a cast member who can do what I am writing – whether it’s a character, a song, or both.  I have to consider time constraints, song set-ups, and what is the best way to use the most people.  When you have 45 to 50 cast members and a story only has a handful of characters, you have to improvise and/or take some liberties with what is not said in the original story.  I have to do a lot of reading-between-the-line with stories.  When someone says, “I don’t remember that person or that part of the story,” I just say, “It could have happened that way!  We just don’t know!”  I truly believe that poetic license applies to Bible story musicals, and if it doesn’t, grace does!

The great thrill of writing a musical play is seeing it go from inside my head to becoming a wonderful performance on stage with hundreds of people watching each night – for four nights in a row.  Come and see for yourself!