It’s rare to have an overtly Christian production that isn’t over the top, excessively preachy, or worse yet, terribly mediocre.
Christians sometimes have terrible taste. I can say that; there’s few people with a more “Christian pedigree” than I. I’m a Bible College graduate (three times over!), born and raised in the church, ordained into ministry, and on the faculty at Cincinnati Christian University. Heck, I even worked at a Christian book store.
Brianna Barnes’s new work, LET THERE BE LIGHT, though, is none of the above. In fact, its possible that this new theatrical experience might be the best evangelical tool I’ve ever come across.
Barnes conducted a series of interviews with various people about their own faith journey and recruited some of her fellow CCM musical theatre students to recreate those those monologues for a live audience. Then she intermixed several brand new songs to help tell their stories. Using music and drama, the show focuses on Jesus Christ and the relationship (or lack thereof) that people have with him.
It’s really good.
Some of that is because of the level of talent playing the parts of the interviewees. They bring these stories to life with heart, laughter, and sometimes gritty, harsh truth about addiction, abuse, and homelessness. Things that certainly create genuine faith-struggles.
Some of it is also because Barnes’s acoustic sensibilities as a songwriter are right in line with contemporary music; her theatrical training helps, too. But the most powerful thing for me was Barnes herself and her direct, frank discussion of what’s wrong with Christianity in 2016. As “sermons” go, its the most relevant, sincere and moving thing I’ve heard in a church in a very long time.
The outstanding work of her cast (listed below) should be commended; everyone brought something interesting to their performance and the vocals were, of course, impeccable.
But what makes LET THERE BE LIGHT important is that it is the kind of art that can revolutionize “Christian entertainment.” I have hope for the future of the church and this is exactly the type of production that can literally change the world.
I’m so glad I saw it.
The cast: Brianna Barnes, Raven Thomas, Gina Santare, Nick Pellacio, Kimberly Pine, Areo Keller, Emily Royer, Zack Triska, and Gabriela Rodriguez.
Brianna Barnes is a senior musical theatre major at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She will perform at the CCM Senior Showcase in March first at CCM and then in New York City.