The Gospel of Musical Theatre

The Gospel of Musical Theatre

A priestly & profane podcast about your favorite musicals, with your favorite deans and musical theatre queens Nathan LeRud & Peter Elliott!

Episodes

June 17, 2022 82 min

To celebrate Pride Month, Peter and Nathan are joined by the incredible Isaac Lamb and Stephanie Smith, director and musical director for a new and groundbreakingly queer production of Meredith Wilson’s 1957 classic musical The Music Man – which opens at Third Rail Repertory Theatre in Portland, OR, on June 17th.

We talk about:

– Theatre and church, chamber pieces versus extravagant spectacles, and what led Meredith Wilson to creat...

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Peter & Nathan welcome a very special guest: the Rev’d Ed Bacon: legendary leader of progressive Christian causes, retired rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, and inveterate Sondheim fan. With Ed’s help, we pull apart the spirituality, theology (and the trichology!) of what is probably Stephen Sondheim’s best-known (and arguably best-loved) musical, the 1987 masterpiece Into the Woods.

 

We talk about:

- The subv...

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It's time for Peter’s favorite Sondheim musical: Sunday in the Park with George! Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1985 musical masterpiece is a beautiful meditation on art and art-making. We love this show, and we hope you will too.

 

We talk about:

- Making art, preaching sermons, and the art of living – and suffering & failure in art... and life

- Noticing & cultivating attention as a spiri...

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April 22, 2022 68 min

Peter & Nathan's keep rolling through the Sondheim oeuvre with his most notorious "flop," the 1981 Merrily We Roll Along! Is it really a bitter, nihilistic look at growing older? Or is there actually something like the Gospel at work in this experimental, bittersweet musical about growing up?

 

We Talk About:

- Is it true that, as Mary says, "God don’t answer prayers a lot?"

- How Merrily illustrates a theol...

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Sort of-guest Arwen Myers—soprano, Sweeney stan, and executive producer of this podcast—joins Peter and Nathan for a wide-reaching conversation about her favorite musical, which just happens to be about murder & meat pies (& Victor Garber). That's right: it's the 1979 Tony-Award winning Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street!

 

We talk about:

- The medieval chant Dies Irae and how it frames Sweeney Todd as a...

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March 28, 2022 74 min

This week, Peter and Nathan turn to Sondheim’s most commercially successful musical, A Little Night Music (1973) – a witty, clever sex comedy made up, in Hal Prince’s famous words, of "whipped cream with knives."

 

We Talk About:

– The show’s big themes: love, sex and time – and how they find expression in the music, especially the now-iconic "Send in the Clowns." 

– Three generations exploring love & relationsh...

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Today we welcome two very special guests: Cantor Ida Rae and Rabbi Michael Cahana of Portland’s Congregation Beth Israel!  We're chatting about Sondheim’s Jewish heritage – and the subversive power of ritual & theatre in Jewish contexts.

 

We talk about:

  • Jewishness in the music of Leonard Bernstein & Stephen Sondheim
  • West Side Story as an immigrant show exploring the tension between alienation and assimilation
  • "Outsid...
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    February 25, 2022 64 min

    Peter & Nathan turn to Sondheim’s 1971 iconic Follies, a show that takes a loving—but brutal—look at nostalgia, camp, the power of memory, and the danger of looking back.

     

    We talk about:

  • The role of nostalgia and the warning articulated in Follies: "never look back"
  • The nature of camp, Susan Sontag’s essay "Notes on Camp" and how Follies explores campiness, drag culture, and the excesses of the 20th century
  • Folli...
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    February 11, 2022 72 min

    We're moving into the "great" Sondheim musicals of the 1970s and 80s, starting with the groundbreaking Company (1970) with its perennial questions about gender, sexuality, and the changing nature of marriage & human relationships.

     

    We talk about:

    - "New morality” in the works of John A.T. Robinson, Harvey Cox, and how it is explored in the work of Sondheim

    - The isolation & verticalization of urban life in ...

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    Today, Nathan & Peter take on an unlikely duo... TWO musicals with music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (a hit & a flop!)—A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962) and Anyone Can Whistle (1965)— which lead to an unexpected conversation about comedy, farce... and miracles.

     

    We Talk About:

  • Sondheim’s love of obscure source material – how many musicals do you know that are based on the plays of an ancient Roman?
  • ...
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    January 14, 2022 64 min

    We're back! We're starting 2022 right and continuing our discussion of the musicals of the great Stephen Sondheim - and today, we're talking about the iconic Gypsy (1959), Sondheim’s early collaboration with Jule Styne.

     

    *We apologize for the audio quality in today's episode - we had some technical difficulties with Nathan's mic!

     

    We talk about:

  • The diva phenomenon, domineering mothers, and queer men’s mommy i...
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    That's right... We're not done with the 1957 Broadway classic West Side Story! Today in this very special holiday bonus episode, we're talking about the 2021 Steven Spielberg adaptation. We talk about:

    - Spielberg’s style and the political & sociological context that he and screenwriter Tony Kushner bring to the original material

    - Shifts in religious imagery from 1961 to 2021 - and how the film shifts the setting o...

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    Today, we begin our long awaited exploration of the musicals of the great Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021) who died recently at the age of 91. We're starting with one of Sondheim’s early collaborations: the 1957 classic West Side Story, which saw Sondheim working as lyricist alongside composer Leonard Bernstein. We talk about:

    - The death of Sondheim and his emerging status as a guru/wisdom teacher in the “church” of musical theatr...

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    November 26, 2021 48 min

    In this very special bonus episode, we turn to the contemporary masterpiece (ahem) Schmigadoon! - Apple TV's 2021 spoof/homage to the great musicals of yore. 

     

    We talk about:

    - The show’s creators, Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio, and their origins in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

    - The "marriage trope" – does the show uphold it or undermine it (or both)?

    - The song "This Is How We Change" and its...

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    November 12, 2021 50 min

    It's the last installment of our Lerner & Loewe deep dive, and we're ending with - well, with a bit of a downer. But an interesting one: Paint Your Wagon, the quintessential expression of loneliness and the challenge of connection.

     

    We talk about:

  • The differences between the 1951 Broadway musical and the 1969 film – and how things had changed in the real world from 1951 & 1969
  • The sexual & gender politics of Ben...
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    October 29, 2021 49 min

    It's a two-fer this week... We're jumping into Lerner & Loewe's most problematic and legendary (wait for it...) shows - the 1958 film Gigi and the 1960 Broadway musical Camelot!

     

    We talk about:

    - Gigi’s origin in the short stories of the French writer Colette (1873-1953) and the film's lurking pedophilia

    - The nature of women’s roles (in 19th-century Paris, 1950s America, and today), and the development of cult...

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    October 15, 2021 56 min

    We know you've been waiting for it - this week, we take a critical (but loving) look at Lerner & Loewe's best-known musical, the 1956 classic My Fair Lady!

     

    We talk about: 

    - The show’s origin in the mythology of Ovid and the social agenda of English playwright George Bernard Shaw – and, perhaps, the Biblical story of Job. 

    - The musical’s exploration of the philosophical question, “If you got everything you wanted, wo...

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    October 1, 2021 46 min

    Welcome to Season 2: Lerner & Loewe! Today, we begin a series of episodes on the musicals of Alan Jay Lerner (1918-86) and Frederick Lowe (1901-88), second only to Rodgers & Hammerstein as creators midcentury musicals that continue to speak to 21st century audiences.

     

    We talk about:

    - The origins of the partnership between Lerner and Lowe and their early flop era.

    - Why a musical about two American boys falling into a myth...

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    We're on summer break, but before we dive into the musicals of Lerner & Lowe in Season 2, we're so excited to share this conversation with the one & only Robin Kermode, renowned English actor, writer, and communications coach.

     

    We chat about about Broadway overtures, code switching, what acting has to teach us about spirituality, and finding your authentic voice.

     

    Find Robin’s own podcast (with occasional guest th...

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    July 30, 2021 41 min

    Today, we wrap up our first season deep dive into Rodgers & Hammerstein with one of their lesser-known (and less successful...) work - the 1947 musical Allegro, a show that was ahead of its time but that hasn't been produced much since its original run.

     

    We talk about:

    - Rodgers and Hammerstein as commercial Broadway producers and as a creative team

    - The rise of the “concept musical” and Allegro’s role in that tradition (...

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