With his hooded eyes and sleazy air, Esparza obviously appears thoroughly corrupt as Jonas, but perhaps that’s what the writers and director Christopher Ashley desire so that his inevitable redemption seems doubtful. If his dubious character is not palatable, Esparza burns with energy and sings like the blazes.
Jessica Phillips gives the supposedly prudent pushover Marla personal conviction and her songs a smoky country-western resonance. Kecia Lewis-Evans lifts up a powerfully beautiful voice as Ida Mae and a personable Leslie Odom, Jr. makes the crusading Isaiah into more of a tonic than a pill. A very hard-working ensemble injects much jubilance into their music and enthusiasm into their performances.
For all of everyone’s professional heat, however, the retreaded material never catches fire. Although Ashley’s staging is aided by designer Robin Wagner’s typically nimble setting, which thrusts over the orchestra pit and into the stage boxes, the director has trouble adjusting the script’s confusing focus as it shifts between a revival meeting in Manhattan and the principal story set in Kansas.
With so many fresh productions of enjoyable musicals both old and new like “Evita,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and Menken’s own lovable “Newsies” available for customers, the misbegotten “Leap of Faith” doesn’t stand a chance on Broadway.
“Leap of Faith” continues at the St. James Theater, 246 W. 44th St., New York. Call (212) 239-6200 or visit www.leapoffaithbroadway.com.