The Theater of Gadsden’s “Looking for a City” in 2019 was performed to a sold-out audience drawn to the southern gospel music it was spotlighting.
A follow-up production last year fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, but a cast of over 60 singers of all ages are prepared for “In Search of a City: The Gospel Journey Continues” , scheduled for July 22-25 at the Ritz Theater in Alabama City.
This will be the theater troupe’s first full production in over a year (“Charlotte’s Web” premiered earlier this month).
“It’s so exciting to reopen the Ritz Theater after more than a year,” said director Mike Beecham. “Music and theater are an integral part of our lives. ”
About two dozen cast members are veterans of the initial show, and the music will be presented by soloists, small groups, and the full ensemble. Some of the cast grew up singing gospel music; others have only recently become involved in the genre.
There will be old favorites such as “Rock of Ages”, “Mansion Over the Hilltop” and “Dwelling in Beulah Land”, as well as more recent songs such as “Use Me” by Justin Myers, an anthem writer. from Georgia that David Wooten, the show’s musical director, met at a gospel singing school.
“There’s so much gospel music that we could do the show for 10 years and never repeat a song, but we’re bringing back some of the favorites from the last time we did it, as well as other classic gospel songs.” , Beecham said.
There will be a tribute to the musical director of the first show, Rhonda Kiser Ledbetter, who died in a car crash shortly after this production. Revonda Pruitt, Ledbetter’s sister and lifelong partner, will be present in a solo.
This is Wooten’s first show as a music director, and he said he was initially hesitant when Beecham contacted him.
“However, I really enjoyed the process and look forward to getting more into musical direction in the future,” he said. “In addition to the experience, it’s a chance for me to grow as a leader, director and musician. I love collaborating with my fellow musicians on stage, which is a huge part of what we do anyway.
“I enjoyed the spiritual journey this has brought us, and I hope the audience can experience the same fun and heartfelt moments as we do,” said Wooten.
The production will also feature narrations from Harry Butler, a longtime Gadsden radio personality, about the songs and their history.
“Southern gospel music is an art form that must be saved,” Beecham said.
Performances are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. on July 22, 23 and 24 and at 2:30 p.m. on July 24 and 25.
Tickets cost $ 17 for adults and $ 15 for seniors / military / students, and there is a discounted rate for 10 or more tickets.
They can be purchased at www.theatreofgadsden.org or by calling 256-547-7469.