Keith Thompson, of "Jersey Boys," introduces the "God Lives in Glass" show and the book that inspired it.
Las Vegas performers repurposed children’s views of God and fashioned them into a mirror that reflected, among other things, the effects of the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The performance, titled “God Lives in Glass,” stemmed from a book by Robert Landy of the same name and proceeds from the show benefited a local nonprofit. Artists from the Strip and UNLV joined forces in a cast of more than 50 performers.
Family Promise Las Vegas was the beneficiary of the “God Lives in Glass” show, which was performed at UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre on Sept. 10 and 11. While the project isn’t inherently centered on 9/11, composer Keith Thompson, musical director and conductor of “Jersey Boys,” spoke about the impact timing had on him.
“It’s a day, it’s a time, that I will never forget,” he said. Thompson spoke of the suspicion that followed Sept. 11 and about how meeting Landy shortly after the attacks inspired him “to continue to let the music live.”
And live it did.The “God Lives in Glass” book is a compilation of how children from myriad cultures think about God: what he looks like, how he thinks of the world. The show did an excellent job of melding images and text from the book with compelling music and inspirational vocal and dance performance.
There was no shortage of somber, heart-felt interpretations of divinity. However, bright pockets of childlike delight interspersed this, with such numbers as “God is a Tomato,” performed commendably by Zoe Konsur, and “Buddha Rap” by Tony Arias and Zaire Adams. Adults contributed to this as well. Brenda O’Brien lent some lofty articulation to “Religions,” a fabulously vibrant role call of belief systems.
Dancers from "The Lion King" perform "God Lives in Glass."
This being said, the overarching message of the show was weighty, but not necessarily in a negative way. “God Lives in Glass,” the titular track partway through the performance, featured dancers from “The Lion King” in a rousing number that underscored the message of the concert. Saleemah Knight’s choreography was technical enough to be impressive and the heart-felt movement fit perfectly with the show.
“Draw God” beat a similar path. Combined with keening vocals in “City of Walls” by Joan Sobel and Bruce Ewing, “The Eyes of a Child” by Tina Walsh and “Missiles and Stars” by Benjamin Hale and Niki Scalera, the effect was overwhelming at times.
Numbers steeped in joy also comprised much of the program. “The Jewel Blues” was an expressive and enfolding experience with big, swinging vocals by Nicole Pryor and some scintillating saxaphone from Eric Tewalt. Ewing, Ian Jon Bourg, Randall Keith and Patrick LeVeque elicited a roar from the audience with the robust harmonies in “All You Gotta Do is Pray.” David Demato regressed to the figurative age of 14 for “Heaven, Hell or Puberty,” which was as comedic and endearing as the title implies.
“A Boy is Coming to Heaven,” featuring Jimmy Lockett and Rashada Dewan, and “Open Your Heart,” by Christine Hudman, Dejah Gomez, Jason Andino and Tim Searcy made for an inspirational suite at the end of the show. Multimedia editing, projected onto a screen for much of the show, and a fantastic ensemble of voices and instrumentals drew the strings of “God Lives in Glass” together.
As a whole, the show was a good balance of sobering memories and sincere artistry. The orchestra deserves recognition here as well; the ebb and flow of wonderfully emotional music added considerable depth to the concert and pianist Philip Fortenberry offered a moving performance right at the end of the show. Combined with the timelessness of a child’s questions and a nation’s grief, “God Lives in Glass” was a highly appropriate homage to the events that transpired a decade ago.