After attending a second preview performance, I am now absolutely certain I didn’t take some bad drugs and hallucinate my first Leap of Faith experience. Which is a damn shame, if you ask me. Not in that I wish I’d been on a bad trip recently, but more in the way of “if that was real, then I have to seriously question the people who put together and financed that show for Broadway.” I like some of those people! I love Raúl Esparza! But nonetheless, Leap of Faith is a real thing that really opened on Broadway last night and I have some real things to say about it, so I thought I’d put together a little list.
Below, five things I’d rather do than see Leap of Faith ever again.
Attend an actual revival
Thirty-five seconds into the show Jonas Nightingale and the Angels of Mercy are supposedly staging a revival. Supposedly. All I saw was Raúl Esparza is running in circles, shoving people around by their foreheads and it made me wish I was at a real revival instead. Now, I don’t happen to be a believer in this revival business myself, but like… if I’m going to watch people shudder and shake and generally freak-out, I’d rather it be people who really do, you know? Who have something at stake. Instead of people who are obviously faking it. Because everyone on that stage is obviously faking it, and I say that not because I know they’re actors, but because the acting is bad. It’s not even the cast’s fault, really. They’ve been handed a pile of cow dung in place of a book and asked to make something out of it. No one’s motivations are even scrutable, let alone believable, and everything is so rushed that the characters never have a chance to develop the emotional connections necessary to make this revival business seem in any way genuine for the audience.
Watch Raúl Esparza read the phone book
Look, we’re talking about one of the most talented stage actors of this age. He honestly could make a phone book reading layered and exciting. And you’d rather see him do that than play Jonas Nightingale, I assure you. Honestly, Leap of Faith made me deeply sorry for anyone seeing Raúl the first time in this show. Because they’re missing out on all the things that make him so good—among them his keen intelligence, sharp tongue, and ability to dramatically express inner turmoil. I’ve even seen him convincingly and sensitively portray a grifter before in Anyone Can Whistle at Encores!. In Leap, Raúl just seems to know how bad the material is, and that knowledge has robbed him of his usual fiery charisma (which is kind of important for a con-man, you know). You don’t believe for a second that anyone would fall for this greasy, louche man’s shtick and Raúl doesn’t, either. It’s a damn shame. And terrible casting.
Have a Beauty & the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin movie marathon
You know, in an attempt to erase the Leap of Faith hot mess from my brain. And remember what it was like when Alan Menken worked with talented lyricists who don’t think that Helen Keller jokes are still fresh and exciting. I remember the words to basically every song in all three of those movies. With a gun to my head I couldn’t remember the words in Leap fifteen seconds after I heard them. Every song was so bland and pat and forgettable it literally passed by me almost completely unnoticed. Sure, nothing offended me—okay, except the bad Helen Keller joke—but nothing registered at all, either.
Watch Joyful Noise
There’s a moment fairly early in the show where Raúl says “Let’s make some joyful noise!” and I immediately wished I was watching that movie instead. At least that would involve actually seeing Jeremy Jordan’s beautiful face, instead of trying to pass time by mentally tabulating Mr. Jordan’s myriad six-degrees-style connections to this cast. (Those include, btw, first degree connections to Louis Hobson and Baby Clyde Talon Ackerman via Bonnie & Clyde and Angela Grovey via Joyful Noise and a second degree connection to Jessica Philips via his fiancée Ashley Spencer, who starred with her in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.)
Bedazzle an old blazer
Okay. The mirror ball jacket was hot. Obviously they pulled the trigger a bit early in the show, so the jacket was kind of wasted. And life would have been a million times better and more craptacular if they’d paired it with those sinfully hot leather pants. (Really, director Christopher Ashley, we couldn’t have saved that for the big third night “blow-off” and let the man wear it for more than thirty seconds?) But let’s be real. Raúl straight up looked like divine emanations of god’s light were shining out of his body in that jacket. I dug it. I ‘dreamed’ about it. And now I want one of my own. Like… now.
Photo: Joan Marcus