Performances for LEAP OF FAITH began on Tuesday, April 3, and the show officially opened tonight at The St. James Theatre. Four-time Tony nominee Raúl Esparza leads the company along with Jessica Phillips, Kendra Kassebaum, Kecia Lewis-Evans, Leslie Odom, Jr., Krystal Joy Brown and Talon Ackerman.
Esparza stars as Jonas Nightingale, an electrifying performer and rabble-rouser who’s planning to take the whole town for a ride. But when a small-town girl stops him in his tracks, this hustler may just discover something to believe in.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Praise the Lord, and pass the amphetamines. “Leap of Faith,” which opened on Thursday night at the St. James Theater, uses the religious revival meeting as both its subject and its form. Yet reviving (or revivifying or inspiriting) is hardly the right adjective for it. Starring Raúl Esparza and based on the 1992 movie of the same title, “Leap of Faith” is this season’s black hole of musical comedy, sucking the energy out of anyone who gets near it.
Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press: The last musical of the official Broadway season comes into town like a huckster promising salvation. But it's the show itself that needs saving.There's a strong musical somewhere in "Leap of Faith," which stars a soulful Raul Esparza and has some of Alan Menken's best songs. But what opened Thursday at The St. James Theatre is sometimes confusing in its tone. Like its main character – the devious faith healer Rev. Jonas Nightingale, ready to scam residents of a down-and-out Kansas town – the musical is hard to pin down. There's too much misdirection.
Erik Haagensen, Backstage: You know you're in trouble at "Leap of Faith" even before the show starts, when actors pretending to be revivalists distribute what are supposed to be dollar bills to the audience, so we will have something to put in the collection basket when it's passed. How many phony preachers distribute money to the audiences they plan to fleece? It makes about as much sense as this ersatz musical does, which, like its cinematic source, is a compendium of formulaic characters and clichéd situations all too obviously cribbed from better and more original works. Bathed in composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater's generic score and driven to an artificial frenzy by Christopher Ashley's desperately meta direction and Sergio Trujillo's repetitive choreography, the show is busy, empty, and, worst of all, boring.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Like many contemporary musicals, Faith ultimately works best as a showcase for its talented cast. The excellent players also include Kecia Lewis-Evans, who as one of Jonas' Angels brings dynamism and dignity to the stock supporting role of big-voiced earth mama. As her grown son and daughter, Leslie Odom, Jr. and Krystal Joy Brown both prove supple singers and fluid dancers. Their contributions help lift Faith above its uneven aspects and become, if not a rapturous experience, a compelling curiosity.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: The stage musical improves on the original simply by settling on a point of view. But despite Raul Esparza’s hard-working lead performance and some rousing Gospel numbers from Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, the story remains stubbornly unappealing. Opening on Broadway the same week as the slavish screen-to-stage transplant of Ghost, the musical Leap of Faith earns points by at least rethinking its source for another medium, often in smart ways, too. Adapting her screenplay, Janus Cercone has collaborated with playwright Warren Leight (a Tony winner for Side Man, and showrunner on Law & Order: SVU) to clarify plot themes, redefining some characters while inventing or excising others. The resulting show has more heart than the movie, but still not enough.