Rockin’ the Planet: The Greatest Story Ever Sung will make its world premiere on Friday, Mar. 29 at the Roxie Theatre in San Antonio.
This original musical chronicles the adventures of a teenage God who finds himself in a dilemma with humanity. Act One covers familiar events from the Bible, including the temptation of Adam and Eve and the epic flood. Act Two is set in contemporary times, as he ponders what has become of his children — and how they can be saved.
Jonathan Pennington, the Roxie’s Producing Artistic Director (who also directs the show), talked with Artscene SA about its genesis and what audiences can expect.
ArtScene SA: How did you become involved with Rockin’ the Planet?
Jonathan Pennington: I worked on the project when I was living in New York City. They chose the Roxie to do the first full production of it. They liked my insight, and asked me to be one of the producers.
What’s the show about?
The vision here is that God is younger, so he’s seen more as an epic superhero type than the old bearded guy. It’s a musical adventure that follows him as he creates Heaven and Earth and what happens afterward.
In Act One, we see key scenes like the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We meet Satan there — he has his own song.
I like his character (laughs). It’s very rocker-esque; kind of like Tim Curry as Satan. [Writer Peppy Castro] wanted him to be a Rocky Horror-style type, and the costuming is really cool.
We go on to see Adam and Eve with their children, Cain and Abel. Cain kills his brother, and we see the fall of humanity. From there, we see Noah and the ark and the flood. So Act One covers from creation to the flood.
Act Two focuses on God’s presence on earth today. He takes a look at what’s going on in the world. All these events are going wrong, and he sings about the Ten Commandments. If people would just follow his guidance, there’d be peace on earth. He can’t really comprehend why humanity has fallen so.
If it sounds preachy, it’s not at all. The message is about wanting everyone to get along and to love each other.
It sounds like it’s got a Godspell-style contemporary approach rather than bible-thumping…
Not bible-thumping at all. We wanted it to be more of a rock concert style. You hit the nail on the head with the Godspell reference, because it’s less of a musical theater piece than it is its own thing. The same way Jesus Christ Superstar is its own thing. In fact, our producer, Steve Leber, was the head producer for the concert LP for Jesus Christ Superstar. So the vision is that Act One could be kind of the “prequel” to Superstar, and Act Two is what’s happening right now. If you wedged Superstar into the middle, you’d have the whole story!
It was my vision to make God younger. I thought he’d be more relatable instead of the older guy who could sound really preachy. When it’s a teenager playing it, it’s light — but you really listen to him.
How many cast members are there?
It’s pretty big. There are about 17, and some of them are double-cast. And it features actors of all ages.
What kinds of musical styles are there?
There are moments where you think you’re listening to an ’80s group like AC/DC, then there’s a sound like Celine Dion. I’m a huge Alan Menken fan, so there’s one song in Act Two that feels like Little Shop of Horrors to me.
It definitely has an original flavor to it. Peppy wrote and orchestrated it, and it all sounds very full and amazing.
Rockin’ the Planet: The Greatest Story Ever Sung is recommended for all ages. It plays Mar. 29, Apr. 5 and Apr. 12 at 8:00 p.m.; Mar. 30, Apr. 6 and Apr. 13 at 7:30 p.m.; and Mar. 31, Apr. 7 and Apr. 14 at 4:00 p.m. at the Roxie Theatre, 7460 Callaghan Road, Suite 333. Reservations can be made online or by calling the box office at (210) 360-9180.
Director: Jonathan Pennington
Assistant Director: Joshua Edwards
Original Choreography: Angelique Paccione
Media Design and Lighting: Nancy Doan
Stage Manager: Cindy Rodriguez
Producers: Steve Leber and Jonathan Pennington
Concept: Steve Leber
Writer: Peppy Castro
Music and Lyrics: June Rachelson-Ospa
Lyrics: Jesse Castro
Cover photo (L-R): Joshua Edwards as the Angel, Sean Salazar as Noah and Jazmin Chacon as Noah’s wife.