Leap of Faith, now showing at the St. James Theatre, follows the misadventures of a confidence man posing as a preacher. As Jonas Nightingale Raul Esparza puts on religious revivals in small towns, promising the locals miracles but leaving them only with empty pockets. Does this show deserve your hard earned cash or is it’s theatrical magic as elusive as snake oil.
Upon entering the theatre the camera men milling about the stage getting b-roll of the audience and the inhumanly enthusiastic “volunteers” make it clear that you are at an “actual revival”. It’s a hard sell since they give you money instead of the other way around. It’s clear that at some point you’ll be asked for it back, it’s not real after all. Though there’s a real-world logic at work here; there must be an ample supply of green-backs for the baskets which inevitably appear and reappear thru-ought the show, stacking the deck does not bode well for Nightingale’s ability to win the crowd or create an actual miracle.
The music by Alan Menken and Book by Glenn Slater of Little Mermaid fame brings their ample gifts to bear on significantly more emotionally mature material than say for instance, the desire for feet of your very own. It is thrilling to hear that classic soul-searching number where characters outline their innermost desires and dreams applied to adult themes in a number such as “I Can Read You” sung with Disney-like precision while a drinking game propels the characters towards actual coitis and not merely “true-loves kiss”.
Raul Esparza is miscast here as the fast talking outwardly charming but secretly sleazy Jonas Nightingale. For a two-faced character he only hits one note. He never wins the crowd over with the charm his characters supposedly possess, he only leads us down the dark rabbit hole of his own soul. It’s not sinfully bad but with so many righteous religious themed shows on broadway there are many more holier than this.
Don’t be fooled by the flashy disco ball diner jacket on the posters there are no miracles here just show-people putting on a show.