FORT MYERS, Fla. — A musical version of the Easter story visits movie theaters nationwide on Tuesday. And its creator, composer John O’Boyle, hopes it becomes an annual tradition.
“I think there’s a big audience for this,” O’Boyle says. “I hope this is something that catches on, culturally. There’s really nothing out there like this for Easter.”
O’Boyle is best-known as the Tony Award-winning Broadway producer behind hits such as “La Cage aux Folles” in 2010 and “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” in 2013. But he started his career as a musician and composer.
Nothing he’s written before has gotten this kind of national exposure, though.
“I’m extraordinarily excited,” O’Boyle says.
“Easter Mysteries” will play at about 300 theaters nationwide at 7 p.m. Tuesday. It began life as a one-act musical in 2000, when it premiered at St. Martin’s in-the-Field Episcopal Church in Severna Park, Md., in 2000, O’Boyle says. “And then it took on a life of its own.”
That initial musical told the story of the Passion of Christ — the events that start with Christ entering Jerusalem and end with his crucifixion. O’Boyle, however, felt like there was more story to tell.
“It’s not, for me, where the story ends,” he says. “It’s where the story begins. So I started working on the second act.”
That second act actually started as a completely separate one-act play following the Easter story through Christ’s burial and ascension. Eventually, O’Boyle stitched them together into the full-sized musical called “Easter Mysteries.”
The finished movie features a 22-person cast of Broadway actors and was directed by Danny Goldstein. O’Boyle says he loves the result.
“We got together an absolutely superb cast with a director whose work I admired,” he says. “I think we just created a jewel of a film.”
O’Boyle wrote most of the musical on piano and the computer program Finale.
The songs, he says, draw from a broad palette of music: Some choral work with four-part harmony, some standard musical-theater songs, and some songs written in the unusual 5/4 time (the same time signature as Dave Brubeck’s popular jazz song “Take Five”).
The “mystery” in the musical’s title doesn’t involve detective work, by the way. It’s based on medieval mystery plays, theatrical works that told Bible stories in churches.