All in the Family
Sometimes good musicals simply refuse to die. Sooner or later, with a little bit of theatrical karma taking effect, they resurface with a new lease on life. In 2003, I wrote very enthusiastically in Back Stage about the zany and melodic "Jesus' Kid Brother," when it premiered at the intimate Hudson Mainstage Theatre in Hollywood. I adored the rousing pop/rock score (including jaunty songs like "Leper in the House") and called the show "a deliciously irreverent spoof." I also wrote, "there's scarcely a second to come up for air between laughs."
This lighthearted Biblical riff about the travails of JC's underachieving young brother was written by two high-achieving siblings, Brian and Mark Karmelich (shown above, left to right, respectively), who collaborated on the book and score. The duo shared a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle nomination for the score, and other LADCC nominations for the show included production, direction (Jules Aaron) and choreography (Brian Paul Mendoza).
It was again produced in the L.A. area in 2006 in a less accomplished staging at a larger venue, the International City Theatre in Long Beach. But it remained clear that the material was something truly special, and the show deserved to survive and thrive in new productions. Astonishingly, that had never happened--until now.
Out of the blue, Mark emailed me recently to tell me there had been renewed activity with the show, courtesy of Stephen Schwartz' ASCAP musical workshop in Burbank. And now the ball is starting to roll again. The show has been booked by the highly regarded York Theatre in Manhattan for a staged reading on May 25, helmed by up-and-coming performer-choreographer-director Connor Gallagher .
York specializes in developing new work and offering showcases for projects aspiring to Broadway and Off-Broadway runs. (Shown here are Christopher Dean Briant as Barabbas and David Brouwer as Larry Christ--that irrepressible younger bro of the title--in the 2003 Hudson staging, with some rambunctious lepers hovering in the background.)
"Jesus' " ultimate hope of course, is for a New York run. I would love to see that happen, as the show remains among my fondest memories amid zillions of nights of reviewing. There's nothing quite like that moment when you go in not knowing what to expect from a new show, and find yourself dazzled and enchanted by it. Here's hoping the York reading goes extremely well, and that there are further glories ahead for this highly worthy musical. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, eat your hearts out.
--Photos by Eric Sabroff