Reviews – LWAW


Glamorous Life of the Theatre
Blog about theatre, life, and living in New York City.TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2007

Look What a Wonder Jesus Has Done

I think that one of the tests of what is good theatre is if you’re still thinking about what you saw and heard a few days later. I saw a musical like that last week; it’s part of this year`s NYMF festival. One of the reasons I’m still thinking about “Look What a Wonder Jesus Has Done” is that I’m still not sure it`s really a musical. It’s some mixture of musical and opera and church, with beautiful, stirring gospel music and great singers.

The show is about a slave revolt in Charleston, South Carolina in 1822. The protagonist is a freeman, Denmark Vesey (Horace Rogers), who is trying to buy freedom for his wife and two children. Chloe, Denmark and Rose Vesey are owned by the evil Col. Moore (David Andrew Anderson, who literally stops the show with the ballad “Answer My Prayer”). The bulk of the action is built around the independent church that Vesey and Bishop Thomas (Allen Kendall) found. The church flourishes, it’s thwarted, it battles on and its members literally die for it. All through this wonderful music- arias, recitatives, call-and-response. It’s incredibly compelling. And if you check out the show’s website, you’ll see praise from no less than William Styron and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. I can totally see it being performed in a church setting. The musician in me is sold on it. review archive

Look What a Wonder Jesus Has Done review · September 22, 2007

Walter Robinson, acclaimed lyricist of the children’s song “Harriet Tubman,” has taken his love of music and knowledge of the history of African American slavery and turned out a musical. Look What a Wonder Jesus Has Done just may be the little musical that could go beyond the festival circuit.

The story is that of Denmark Vesey (played by the very talented Horace V. Rogers), a freed slave who co-founded a branch of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816 and planned what would have been one of the largest slave revolts in American history. In Robinson’s version, Vesey not only has to build a church and plan a revolt, he also has to buy his wife and kids from Col. John Benton Moore (played by David Andrew Anderson), who unlike most slave owners is not looking to sell his property due to his love for Vesey’s wife. Let’s put Moore’s love on hold for a second and look at what I loved about this show.

Robinson for one is someone to love. You’ve got to admire a guy who takes on the challenge of writing the music, book, and lyrics of a gospel play with a cast of 19. Robinson’s love of the child’s voice is shown through the numerous songs sung by Chloe Vesey and Prosser Vesey, played by the charming eight year old Tamara Robinson and the young CJ Palma. Robinson’s skill with ensemble numbers is evident with numbers like “Dreams Come True,” “The Slave Ship/This Great Army,” and “Brave and Strong” (note: “Brave and Strong” received an uproar of applause from the audience). There are also the strong and well-trained voices of Rogers and various ensemble members to appreciate. Add a spirited ensemble, a well-crafted set designed by Lara Fabian, accompaniment by Alex Lacamoire, and the wand of director Hilary Adams, and what you have is a very nice production in the NYMF.

If a standing ovation is any indication that this show can go further, then surely it’s on the right track. With some revisions to both script and score, you might just see this production graduate from the NYMF and grow to rival other well-known gospel theatre productions.