So I went to the rehearsal to see for myself.
And was completely blown away by what I saw and heard.
For those not familiar with the CYAC, the drama group was formed 15 years ago by playwright and director Dan Kehde and his wife, Penny, along with composer Mark Scarpelli. Many of the group's productions are plays that Kehde has written. (Celeste is also currently a cast member in Kehde's play "Four Young Women Tell the Truth about Eating Disorders," which travels to schools or communities to raise awareness about anorexia and bulimia.)
Celeste met Kehde a few years ago through Charleston Stage Company's Summer Arts Camp, where he was a counselor, teaching playwriting and other theater-related workshops. Kehde somehow managed to get my prose-phobic daughter excited about writing in a way no one else could manage to do. I say this to admit I'm already a little biased in his favor, but after attending this rehearsal, I've become a full-out fan.
The talent in the room overwhelmed me, most of all that of Donnie Smith, who plays Judas. Because the rehearsal was casual, the cast members milled about on the stage. Smith was standing on his wobbly platform, looking all cool in his backward hat and ear gauges, when the music started and his phenomenal voice filled the room. The emotion he displayed during the songs had me near tears a few times myself.
The part of Jesus is played by Ryan Hardiman, the 2008 winner of "Symphony Idol" and a frequent performer in local productions. Hardiman was as impressive in this show as he's been in everything I've seen him in -- and he's never been anything but extraordinary.
I don't know the names for the rest of the cast, and anyway, the purpose of attending wasn't so to do a review. It was to see if it felt blasphemous, to find out what the fuss had been about way back when. Religion is such a personal thing, and I'm sure some will disagree, but for me, there was no blasphemy. What I saw and heard left me feeling closer to God.
And appreciative of the incredible talents with which He's blessed the members of this cast.
Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinful...@gmail.com.