Reviewed by Robin Schwartzkopf
“A man cannot live by grits alone!”
In Cotton Patch Gospel, the musical retelling of the New Testament, Gainsville, Georgia, becomes the new Bethlehem. Born in a crate to Mary and Joe, Jesus must learn about his religion while at the same time teaching others. The parallels between his preaching, his follower’s stories (Matthew works for the IRS instead of being a tax collector), and his journey to find faith and lead others is always entertaining, at times, quite funny, and emotional too.
The cast is small, a group of six men featuring Christopher Stewart, Lucas Hall, Drew Perkins, and Eric Williams. Each actor is remarkably talented with the musical instruments he plays (and there are many, many instruments) and it adds to the overall effect of the show. It seems insane when they first start telling the story of Jesus in Georgia, like it’s meant to be a big spoof, but by the second or third song, it all begins to sink in. The setting of the story in the contemporary South makes it even more relevant, and makes it hit closer to home for Christians in America. The blue-grass music and down-to-earth characters are just what young people need to really understand the Gospel. It is certainly a wonderful and welcome alternative to a normal bible study class.
The songs and performances in this show are varied in emotional level just like the very famous story it retells. From Somethin’s Brewin’ in Gainsville, a cheerful, high-energy song from the first act about the mystery of Jesus’s birth, to You’re Still My Boy and One More Tomorrow, two heart-breaking, soul-stirring, love-filled ballads from the second, this show has it all. I highly recommend it for Christians of all ages who want to get closer to their faith and teens like me who like hanging out with their parents doing meaningful things – especially during this time of year.
You can see and enjoy Cotton Patch Gospel from Virginia Rep with friends or with family – at Hanover Tavern through April 28.