On Stage

Cotton Patch Gospel

music and lyrics by Harry Chapin
book by Tom Key and Russel Treyz

directed by Marilyn Langbehn
musical directed by Rona Siddiqqui
starring Edward Hightower
with Katie Kimball, Erica Richardson and Rona Siddiqui

November 20 - December 20, 2009
Thurs - Sat 8pm; Sun 7pm

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Harry Chapin’s Cotton Patch Gospel:
A Bluegrass, Progressive Holiday Musical

Just in time for the holidays, Custom Made proudly brings Harry Chapin’s (“Taxi”, “Cat’s in the Cradle”) “Cotton Patch Gospel” to the Next Stage (attached to the historic Trinity Church).  “Cotton Patch” is a progressive and musically joyous look at the Jesus story through a very modern lens.  Using 26 songs, one amazing actor, three gorgeous singers, and a bluegrass band, “Cotton Patch Gospel” is for everyone who wonders if the peace and love promised by the gospels is still possible in our modern world.

Cotton Patch Gospel premiered at the Lamb's Theater in New York City on October 21, 1981. Written by Tom Key and Russell Treyz, and with music and lyrics by Harry Chapin, Cotton Patch Gospel adapted Clarence Jordan's "Cotton Patch" versions of the gospels of Matthew and John for the stage. Though less widely known than the other gospel musicals of its era (Godspell and Jesus Christ, Superstar), Cotton Patch Gospel is an underappreciated gem of musical theater.

Between 1968 and 1973, Dr. Clarence Jordan, a Southern Baptist minister, published four books where he translated the New Testament into colloquial Southern language. These "Cotton Patch" versions were brought to the attention of Tom Key, an Atlanta actor and playwright, when he was contemplating a play that would transplant the story of Jesus into the mid-20th century American South. In “Cotton Patch” Jesus Davidson was born in the town of Gainesville, Georgia, and was laid in an apple crate. He was baptized in the Chattahoochee River, he preached to a crowd of thousands on Stone Mountain, and he met his end in Atlanta. In between, he encounters followers, cynics, and an institutionalized, conservative Church that rejects his simple message of love and human compassion.

With Jordan's versions as his source material, Key, together with Russell Treyz, wrote the book for the stage play. The music for the production was written and composed by the legendary Harry Chapin, in what would eventually prove to be his final musical work. In all, Chapin produced 26 songs for the show, many of them in a bluegrass style befitting the play's setting. Chapin finished his contribution in June 1981, and was unexpectedly killed in an automobile accident on July 16, 1981.   

Custom Made produced Chapin’s song-cycle “Lies and Legends” earlier this decade, and is thrilled to be showcasing again one of the greatest artists of the late 20th century, who left us far too early.

Production Photos

Click on the thumbnails below for a high-resolution version

Slavs
Pam Brandon, Matt Lauer, David Finch, Jeff Kaplan, Edward Hightower, Erica Richardson
Slavs
Katie Kimball, Rona Siddiqui, Erica Richardson

Slavs
Katie Kimball, Rona Siddiqui, Erica Richardson, Edward Hightower

Slavs
Edward Hightower, Rona Siddiqui, Katie Kimball, Erica Richardson
Slavs
Slavs

Cast and Crew

The Storyteller
Edward Hightower

The Cotton Patch Trio
Katie Kimball
Erica Richardson
Rona Siddiqui

The Cotton Pickers
Pamela Brandon—Bass
John Croizat/David Finch—Fiddle/Mandolin
Jeff “Uncle Jake” Kaplan—Banjo/Guitar
Matt Lauer—Guitar

Director……………….………..…Marilyn Langbehn
Musical Director…..…….….……..Rona Siddiqui
Stage Management………..………Alan Kline*
Set/Scenic Design………..………..Lewis Campbell*
Lighting Design……………..……..Kedar Lawrence
Costume Design.....…...…...……...Maria Graham
Set Builders…….………..……….Lewis Campbell,Bennie Lewis, Vernon Medearis

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