The story is about the "powerful friendship between a fisherman and "The Son of Man."
| THE ROCK & THE RABBI
The story of a fisherman and the Son of Man
There are watershed moments in life, commemorative slices and snapshots of distinct experiences that indelibly imprint our memory. They measure growth and development like sediment rings on a mountainside. Then there are the rare, preternatural collisions with time and events that etch themselves deep in the soul, and change lives forever.
The first time I saw the new musical, The Rock & the Rabbi, was September 22, 2001 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. A friend gave me two tickets to the show and urged me to see it. She didn't give a lot of detail other than it was a musical about Jesus and one of His Disciples. When I pressed for more information she smiled and said, "Just see it."
The air was cool and sweet the night that my wife, JoAnn, and I mingled with the growing crowd in the courtyard outside the doors to Ferguson Theatre at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. There was a palpable buzz, an electric undertone weaving through the hushed conversations. It struck me odd that there would be this much anticipation for a new, and relatively anonymous musical. It was like everyone knew a secret but us.
Privately, I thought that the show would be another trendy collection of pop culture references to Christianity with self-indulgent, irreverent musical numbers masquerading as Hymns. From our seats, we watched gentle swells of people file quietly into the box seats, and the balcony, upstairs and downstairs. Others congregated in the aisles, backslapping and chittering. The atmosphere was thick with fellowship, and in the subdued lighting, the playhouse took on the feel of a church. Moments later, the lights blinked several times and the house went dark. The entire theatre was still. Not a sound, except for my beating heart. Inexplicably, it thumped loud in my ears, and I was certain that everyone in the house could hear it, too.
A pin spot of light widened in the downstage darkness. In its circle stood a man dressed in black, his gray hair incongruous with his youthful countenance and affable smile. He stood bathed in the light for a beat or two; then he grinned and broke the absolute silence. "So, you want to hear about the Rabbi. Good. I should warn you though, I'd rather tell you that story than eat." His tone suggested that we brace ourselves for what he was about to disclose. As it turned out, that was impossible. Ninety minutes later, breathless and trembling, I would whisper to my wife, "My God, the whole world needs to see this. Now!"
There are no parallels of this genre in Musical Theatre history to The Rock & The Rabbi. That its origin is Biblical doesn't put it in the same category of Jesus Christ, Superstar, or Godspell. On the contrary, its stark simplicity and recognizable human qualities propel this compelling story of friendship and betrayal. The extraordinary power of this theatrical concert comes from the gifted performances, and the undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit.
The story, written and masterfully recounted by Gary Richardson, and punctuated by Danny Hamilton's inspired, and inspiring music, is about the "powerful friendship between a fisherman and The Son of Man." Woven throughout the production (produced by Know The Way Productions) are the frenzied and uplifting acoustic and percussion performances by the 12 Disciple Musicians, including the riveting lead vocals of Neal Coomer (The Rock), and Derrick Williams (The Rabbi).
As a friend once said to me and I now say to you... "Just see it."
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