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Rock and Andy (Bob Jackson and Ben Purdy), two of Jesus' followers, sing a tune in the first act of "A Cotton Patch Gospel" Sunday afternoon at Hayswood Theatre in Corydon. Photo by Ross Schulz (click for larger version)

Greatest story ever retold comes to Corydon


Review


February 26, 2014 | 09:55 AM

The seats were packed all weekend at Hayswood Theatre for "A Cotton Patch Gospel," a retelling of the greatest story ever told based on the book "The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John" by Clarence Jordan.

The gospel is presented in a setting of rural Georgia with country music songs and begins and ends with the singing of "Somethin's a'brewin' in Gainesville."

It's a one-of-a-kind telling of the story of Jesus using bluegrass music and the folks of Valdosta, Ga.

Herod (Charles Swarens) is the mayor of Atlanta and Christ (Jim Aich) is lynched by local thugs only to rise again.

The acting is strong throughout, but the music stole the show. The original music was written Harry Chapin.

Music director and guitarist Lee Cable led the band that also included Neil Brewer, banjo; John Douglass, fiddle; John James, bass fiddle; and Marty Purdy, mandolin.

The show would not have had quite the same effect without the strong bass voice of Jay Renfrow, who played Matthew, narrating the entire story and adding to almost every song.

Other impressive performances were turned in by Jill Robertson (as Mary); Webby Oglesby (Joe); Scott Smith (John the Baptist); Sue Woertz (Pilate); and Melissa Renfrow (messenger).

Kathy Norton is the director, her first for a musical at Hayswood Theatre.

She said the musical is far more than a great cast and music. "There is no one like Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man," she said in the musical's program.

"My hope is that the down-home wisdom of the people of Valdosta help you connect to Jesus' story on a deeper level than you have before," she said.

"A Cotton Patch Gospel" is about two hours long with a 15-minute intermission, but time flies with the cast keeping everyone's attention throughout the show.

In response to demand to see the show, Hayswood Theatre has added two Saturday matinée showings, at 3, on March 1 and 8. Other showings are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through March 9.

Hayswood Theatre is located at 115 S. Capitol Ave. in Corydon.

Tickets — $14 for adults and $12 for senior citizens and students — may be purchased at the door or in advance by calling the Blaine H. Wiseman Visitor Center at 738-2138. Group discounts are available.

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