Cotton Patch Gospel, a full length musical based on the retelling of the life of Jesus set in modern day rural Georgia, will be performed free of charge at Grace Episcopal Church at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25.
Originally performed on Off-Broadway starring former University of Alabama student Tom Key, Cotton Patch Gospel is a retelling of the New Testament story of Jesus set in the mid-20th century South. Writer Key collaborated with co-author and director Russell Treyz, and composer Harry Chapin to create a hit musical that has been performed from New York to Los Angeles, Atlanta to Dallas, with record-breaking runs.
Billed as “the greatest story ever retold” in a lively bluegrass setting, the Rev. David Meginniss will serve as narrator with Andy Meginniss on banjo, Jeannie Randall on bass and Randolph Horn on mandolin.
Some years back the Rev. David Meginniss, now rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Tuscaloosa, along with his brother, Andy, performed the show around the Southeast. They have agreed to stage a new production for Grace Episcopal Church as a gift to its community.
“What if the events of the Bible happened in the recent past,” said Meginniss, “in a place closer to home? What if Jesus lived in, say, Georgia, and died just 30 years ago? What if His friends were people a lot like our friends? What if His enemies were like folks we might recognize in our own lives?
“In the Cotton Patch Gospel, Jesus was born, not in Bethlehem, but in north Georgia. He was baptized, not in the Jordan River, but in the Chattahoochee. The result is a lively, moving, thought-provoking and funny re-telling of the life of Jesus.”
The play, based on the rewriting of the New Testament gospels during the late 1960s into colloquial Southern speech by the late Dr. Clarence Jordan, a Baptist minister and Bible scholar in Georgia, who became one of the inspirations for Habitat for Humanity founded by Millard Fuller.
The narrator David Meginniss, graduated from the University of Alabama Law School and practiced law in Huntsville for about 20 years before his ordination. He performed in a few amateur theater productions in both Huntsville and Wetumpka.
Other members of the ensemble include Andy Meginniss, who has been a part of the Birmingham music scene since the late 1960s. He was a member of Three on a String for 13 years and also performed with Grammy nominee Claire Lynch for eight years. Currently, he does guitar and vocals as part of the Herb Trotman Band and is lead singer for the group Rosewood. Earlier this year, Andy was inducted into the Alabama Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. He is on the Board of Directors of the Alabama Folk School at Camp McDowell and works as a regional account manager with McLeod Software. He is in charge of music for the Sunday afternoon service at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham.
“Having a new cast member has made it challenging and fresh for us again,” continued Meginniss, “since we have to re-work some of the harmonies to fit his voice. So if you’ve seen it before, I hope you’ll come back and see this new version. And if you’ve never seen it, I especially urge you to come. It’s a Bible study that’s definitely not boring!”
Doors at Grace Episcopal Church open at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, for one performance only. This free two-act Cotton Patch Gospel begins promptly at 7 p.m. and ends at 9. Grace Episcopal Church, 305 Arnold Street NE, Cullman, 256-734-6212.