BPC Musicals – A Strong Tradition

Youth musicals at BPC have touched many lives, on stage, behind the scenes, in the pit, in the kitchen, on the directing teams, in the audience, and in the community.  It’s a form of outreach, evangelism, and ministry.  Participation is something to be remembered forever.  By a conservative estimate, youth musicals at BPC have played to audiences of more than 20,000 since 1997.

Among cast and crew, some have participated in every show from the time they were eligible in 7th grade until they graduated from high school.  Sometimes, we have a senior or two who may never have been in a show previously.  And while a handful of graduates have gone on to university-level education in music, drama, and theatre, all have profited from the experience of performing and they carry that experience into their adult lives.

It takes more people offstage and behind the scenes than onstage to present these shows.  Most of the cast and crew come from BPC, but every year some from elsewhere – other churches and other faiths – come to BPC and participate.  The cast works hard every weekend in January and February.  But still, when the time is added up, it amounts to only about 60 hours of rehearsal.  What they accomplish in that limited amount of time is remarkable.   There is never an admission charge at BPC, and while some years it has been close, through the grace of God and the generosity of attendees we have always covered our costs.  Here’s a look at all the different shows we’ve offered over the years:

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor® Dreamcoat was presented in 1998, 2005, 2009, and 2017.  In 1998, it needed a lot of men.  We had a lot of women.  We had seven in the technical crew, seven in the band, and 22 in the cast.  Our lighting was sufficient but our sound system was a problem.  Nevertheless, it was a big success.  A pre-show spaghetti dinner was offered on one night.  In 2005, Joseph returned with a cast of 37 and only two women cast as brothers!  Dazzling costumes and sets, and an orchestra of 12 and a tech crew of eight helped to tell this beloved Old Testament story.  The show still featured an Elvis suit but also debuted our own wildly popular dancing camel!  Additions to our platform and riser inventory allowed for four performance areas throughout our meeting house.  Greatly improved sound and lights enhanced the experience for all.  2017 included a return of the crowd pleasing camel, the addition of a new unsuspecting goat, a young 50’s Elvis (no Vegas jumpsuit this time), a show stopping Captain Potiphar, and terrific costumes and sets. The cast of 35, tech crew of 11, and band of 10 really brought this beloved story to life and it was very well received and enjoyed by all ages.

Godspell has been presented six times – 1988, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2008 and 2016.  Technical support for the 1997 production featured homemade footlights which were turned on by plugging into a wall outlet, and two poorly maintained can lights loaned by the Fairfax County Recreation Department mounted on two wobbly trees.  Stand microphones provided modest amplification, sometimes.  The show, with a cast of 21, a tech crew of four, and a band of six, played to a full house.  We were on a roll!  In 2003, the staging and concept were entirely different from any of its predecessors.  It was done in the round and utilized a global theme.  The show played to more than 1,000 attendees over the four night run.  It involved the audience and, indeed, the world.  Cast members represented various countries while in small groups depicting continents.  Some traditionally solo numbers were done collectively.  There were no costume changes; the cast of 28 never left the performance area.  There were five in the band and six in the tech crew.  Newly purchased wireless microphones completed the transition to professional sound, and when coupled with professional lighting, raised the bar to a very high-quality production.  Our 2008 version used “alley staging” and again brought a fresh approach to Godspell.  Set in High School, Jesse/Jesus and Judy/Judas encountered small cliques of nerds, jocks, cheerleaders, goths, preppies, foreign exchange students and faculty as they journeyed together through the gospel and the semester.  The hysterically funny cast of 21, supported by a tech crew of eight, drove home the timeless parable messages in a fresh and memorable way.  Staying in character, the pre-show dinners carried a school cafeteria theme complete with lunch trays, sporks and lunch ladies in hairnets.  The six member “marching band” was even in uniform!  Our 2016 production was both new and old.  The licensed show was a revised version of Godspell with some tweaks from its originators while our staging took a cue from ’03 and utilized a small group approach to tell the gospel parables with a modern spin.  Staged in the round, the cast of 31 and band of 7 brought the house down each night.  Our talented technical team added a visual and emotional impact by projecting images on screens of world events, war, nature, human accomplishments, and failures - glimpses of humanity and hope – to enhance the experience and lyrics found in the closing song - “We can build a beautiful city, yes we can!”

Mary Poppins in 2015 brought a very challenging technical demand to BPC - Mary’s magical carpet bag was full of tricks and a kite even flew across the sanctuary to the delight of the unsuspecting audience members.  It was a bit of a stretch for us but, in the end, great fun for the audience.  The cast of 36, tech crew of 14, and band of 15 did a lovely job of bringing this toe-tapping musical to life – the actors incorporated English accents to boot!  The numerous sets were extremely creative, detailed and added terrific visual impact to the show. 

Children of Eden has been presented three times, first in 2001 and then 2004 and 2014. For us, this was the big time!  The show had 43 separate vocal numbers … yes, 43!  It boasted an 11-piece band, a cast of 20, a substantial tech crew, professional lighting, and improved sound.  Some of the most wonderful ballads in this genre were heard in this touching show.  Literally, back by popular demand, Children of Eden made its second appearance in 2004.  There were still 43 vocal numbers, this time performed by a large cast of 35.  It was presented in a much different style, with a primary center stage and storytellers on either side who interacted with both the audience and dramatists.  We began our investment in moveable platforms and risers, which increased our staging flexibility for musical productions as well as other activities at BPC.  The pit orchestra of 14 featured a mixture of electronic and acoustic instruments including a new keyboard.  The move to wireless microphones for the entire cast was completed and required the use of a second sound board, all of this supported by a talented tech crew of nine.  Our traditional Friday and Saturday night dinners continued, but this time the fare was lasagna generously donated by our neighbors at Hopsfrog Grille. 

2013’s selection was Esther, the story of an orphaned Jewish girl who becomes Queen of Persia, and discovers that her people are to be annihilated by royal decree. She is forced to trust God through frightening circumstances, with the survival of her entire race seemingly on her shoulders.   The cast of 26, tech crew of 11, and band of 8, along with creative sets and costumes, all came together to bring this emotional and heartwarming story of courage and hope to life.

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown was presented in 2012. The show is about an average day in the life of Charlie Brown, a day made up of little moments picked from all the days of Charlie Brown, from Valentine's Day to the baseball season, from wild optimism to utter despair, all mixed in with the lives of his friends (both human and non-human.) All of the action is strung together in a single day, from bright uncertain morning to hopeful starlit evening. This show featured a larger elevated stage. The technical crew excelled in recreating Snoopy's doghouse, Lucy's psychiatry booth, Schroeder's piano, and even a flying kite.

The 2011 musical was Seussical. The story centered around Horton the Elephant, who finds himself faced with a double challenge--not only must he protect his tiny friend, Jojo (and all the invisible Whos) from a world of naysayers and dangers, but he must guard an abandoned egg, left to his care by the irresponsible Mayzie La Bird. Although Horton faces ridicule, danger, kidnapping and a trial, the intrepid Gertrude McFuzz never loses faith in him, the only one who recognizes "his kind and his powerful heart." This show featured amazing costuming made by BPC volunteers. The onsite dinner program was discontinued in favor of partnerships with local restaurants who donated a portion of the proceeds from dinners purchased by audience members.

Hula Hoops & Halos was performed in 2010 by a cast of 28, tech crew of 9 and a band of 5.  Set in the 1950s, the show is about being true to yourself. A lively ‘50s style score includes the divine do-wop number Heavens to Betsy; the drive-in ditty Wheels and Reels and a Full Moon; the hilarious The Hardings Need a Guardian Angel; and the dare-devilish dance number The Hellion Hop. 

Honk! the first of our non-Biblical shows, brought a change of pace in 2007.  Based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Ugly Duckling, the show was a delight for all ages.  The story is infused with Biblical themes of love, perseverance, and forgiveness. The cast of 24 brought to life the importance of embracing each other’s unique characteristics and finding your personal God-given gifts and sharing them with the world.  A 12-piece orchestra and tech crew of 12 supported this fun and lively piece.  Again offered in dinner theatre style, a fried chicken dinner with all the fixings was enjoyed by all.

Cotton Patch Gospel, performed in 2006, offered an inter-generational combination of a youth-only cast accompanied by music from our own BPC Folk Group.  Staged in the round, it was a great success.  The cast of 24, band of 8, and tech crew of 12 had the audience clapping and toe-tapping each night.  Experimenting with a family style dinner theatre experience, a barbeque dinner was served in the Meeting House so audience members could both eat and enjoy the show without leaving their seat or the performance space.  RC Cola and Moon Pies helped carry the southern theme.   A first this year was the successful change of Sunday’s curtain time to 3 p.m., creating our first matinee.

Jesus Christ Superstar was an ambitious undertaking in 2002.  Auditions swelled due to the popularity of this selection with young people and we welcomed the largest cast (37) and crew (30) in our history.  Keeping in touch with current events, the show referenced the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  Several firsts happened with this show.  For the first time, we needed an orchestra, not a band, and it consisted of 17 instrumentalists.  For the first time, we gathered the cast for an overnight retreat prior to the onset of the rehearsal process and it contributed to a sense of community and helped focus the large group.  For the first time, we experimented with a fourth performance by advertising the dress rehearsal as an open rehearsal and it proved to be hugely popular.  For the first time, all seats were assigned, guaranteeing reserved seats to the more than 400 who enjoyed the pre-show dinners.  Professional lighting and much improved amplification, including a few headset microphones, contributed to a highly professional presentation.

Rock Nativity, offered in December 1999, was the second musical production of that year and told the Christmas story through several wonderful vocal numbers.  There were 25 in the cast, six in the band, and seven in the technical crew.  At that time we were using follow spots, lavalier microphones, and more sophisticated lighting.  The stage was enlarged and the footlights retired.  We served dessert instead of dinner.