NEW YORK, N.Y. — Following the worldwide success of the “The Book of Mormon,” Broadway investors are discussing the possibility of another musical based on another American religion: the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
No firm commitments have yet been made to the project, tentatively titled “Conflict of the Ages,” but rumors are swirling around the top tiers of the industry. The idea for the potential show came from famed lyricist Oliver Rittenhouse, who discovered the Adventist church one night during a bout of insomnia, when he accidentally turned into church-affiliated network 3ABN.
Since then, Rittenhouse has attended several prophecy seminars and read “The Great Controversy,” a book by church founder Ellen Harmon White. “I think there’s a wealth of material for a great show,” said Rittenhouse, citing plucky young heroine Ellen Harmon and the swashbuckling Captain Joseph Bates. There’s also straight man James White and comic relief John Harvey Kellogg. Further adding to the show’s value is a multitude of possible villains—from the pope to theologian Desmond Ford. “Really, there is something for everyone!” said Rittenhouse.
Top industry talents are developing the storyline and music, according to Broadway insider Winona Maxwell. Songs in progress include “The Shut Door,” a plaintive ballad sung by the young Ellen; “Send Her to Australia!” a song and dance showstopper performed by a men’s chorus; and “Last Generation,” a poignant love song between Ellen and James. “We think that duet will become a staple at Adventist weddings for the next decade,” said Maxwell.
One difficulty has arisen: an authentic SDA storyline doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to dance—a staple of musical theater. Despite Adventist evangelist Doug Batchelor’s recent, brief appearance on “Dancing with the Stars,” the church has typically shunned the practice because it appeals to the “lusts of the flesh.” With this in mind, choreographers are working on tasteful, low-rhythm dance sequences that won’t clash too much with Adventist sensibilities. “They might be able to include some sort of ethnic folk dancing in the second coming scene,” said Maxwell, “as long as the movements are primarily in the arms and feet.” She also indicated that a modernist, Martha Graham-style dance could play a role in the Daniel 7 scene.
Within the next few months, organizers will know if they have the funding to go ahead with the show. “I can’t imagine someone turning down such a wonderful investment opportunity,” said Tito Davenport, a reporter with Broadway Insider magazine. “Prophetic beasts, the close of probation, the end-times showdown—that’s all great stuff!”
Special thanks to Marian Davis for the guest post