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Composed by E.Christine Anderson: Wait – It’s A Musical!
Label: Produced in affiliation with A.M. Tuneshop
Sound/Style: Contemporary musical theatre featuring varied styles
By Steve Morley
(UMCom)— This week’s entry in our ongoing feature of independent Christian artists isn’t an artist-driven project, but a one-act musical designed for churches or church-related events. Drawing from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, Wait! traces the parallel conceptions of Jesus and John the Baptist while focusing on the human relationships of their parents-to-be.
Additionally, the musical imagines some of the smaller, behind-the-scenes details that never actually appear in Biblical accounts. First, we get a glimpse of King Herod as an egotistical yet fragile ruler who requires encouragement from a perfectly willing, brown-nosing underling in "Their Leader." With its keening violin and Jewish tonality, the song effectively sets the scene for the acts of God that follow.
The majority of songs are mild-mannered pop, though composer Anderson samples lightly from funk, blues and rock-edged fare to spice up the proceedings. Quite likely because these songs were written and produced by women, the contrast between Martians and Venusians—er, that is, men and women—is heightened. At times, it even seems that the male species gets the ever-so-slightly shorter end of the stick in these gender portrayals, coming off as distant, doubtful and slow to realize what their women already know, and more importantly, feel. (Of course, this could be a fairly accurate depiction, but don’t expect your humble reviewer—a card-carrying male—to possess such objectivity in this instance…)
True to the original story, the lyrics unpack the frailties of Zechariah and Joseph as well as their hopes and those of their mates. In particular, the lithe, Latin-tinged "Unafraid" works off of gender differences, featuring alternating twin monologues from Joseph and Mary. In the number, they ponder their individual futures as well as Mary’s supernatural peace in the face of being misunderstood.
In Zechariah’s case, he redeems himself early on in the jazzy, swaggering "I Want A Son," but not until Elizabeth has poured her heart on the table in "Where Are You?," a mid-tempo pop ballad in which she challenges him to be bolder. Humor is derived from Zechariah’s skeptical response to the angel Gabriel, who is painted here with more personality than spirit beings usually get credit for. After shutting the priest’s mouth in definitive fashion, he goes on to repeat the contents of his divine telegram: "I’ve already TOLD ya, you’ll have a son…and maybe you can teach him not to interrupt!" The modern vernacular that Anderson uses lends the work a lighthearted, modern flavor, though never to the detriment or disrespect of the heavenly goings-on and their ultimate importance to all believers past, present and future.
Though billed as a soundtrack, Wait!— as a yet-to-be-established work—perhaps serves best as a demonstration recording for theatrical groups and the like, falling short of the Technicolor effect of a Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar. To be fair, though, it isn’t geared toward the secular market as those shows were. As a result, it sticks close to Biblical truth while still finding a few new angles to explore. Wait! – It’s A Musical offers a fresh spin on the faithfulness of God’s promises and the futility of trying to alter His agenda—an inspiring message that, whenever it happens to arrive, is always right on time.
Steve Morley is a freelance music journalist living in College Grove, Tenn.
This review was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of the United Methodist Church.