Aimee Semple McPherson Comes to Broadway Aimee Semple McPherson Comes to Broadway
Aimee Semple McPherson Comes to Broadway

Aimee Semple McPherson Comes to Broadway

Aimee Semple McPherson Comes to Broadway

by Steve Eastman, Faith Issues

It’s been a 13-year effort, but Kathy Lee Gifford’s dream of a Broadway musical about 1920s’ female evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson soon becomes a reality.  Opening night is November 15th at the Neil Simon Theatre in New York.

Gifford made the announcement as a co-host of theToday Show.  She’s admired McPherson for many years, since first hearing about her while a student at Oral Roberts University in the 1970s.  Gifford wrote the script of the musical as well as lyrics in collaboration with composers.

Please don’t be put off by the title — Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson.  The producers’ announcement may also give you pause:

"Set in 1920s Los Angeles, holiness collides with Hollywood in this extraordinary tale of one remarkable woman's charismatic rise to fame amidst scandalous love affairs and growing controversy, inevitably ending in her much-publicized fall from grace."

Now let’s put this into context.  One of the producers is the Four Square Foundation, affiliated with the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, the denomination McPherson founded.  

Aimee Semple McPherson was a woman ahead of her times, leading a powerful evangelistic organization when only men ruled churches.  She would have been a televangelist, except TV hadn’t been introduced at the time.  Instead, her church, Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, owned a radio station — KFSG.  McPherson was known to question the Federal Radio Commission’s power to regulate the airwaves.  She thought that should be left up to God.

The biggest scandal associated with McPherson involved her disappearance while swimming at Venice Beach on May 18, 1926.  She claimed she was kidnapped for ransom, but the tabloids of the time accused her of having an affair with her radio producer.  During her disappearance the lady evangelist was reportedly spotted in sixteen cities on the same day — so much for the reliability of witnesses.  McPherson was eventually exonerated when two people involved confessed to a judge.

Scandalous covers a long time span — from McPherson’s teenage years to maturity.  Gifford had originally intended to cast two actresses, but Carolee Carmello promised she was up to the challenge.  The 50 year-old is well known by fans of Remember WENN, the American Movie Channel’s beloved cable series about old-time radio.  Carmello played Maple LaMarsh.

Oral Roberts would have been proud.  Kathy Lee Gifford was one of his World Action Singers, and now she’s bringing the forgotten story of an innovative female preacher to mainstream audiences.

© 2012 Faith Issues
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