The gospel according to Tammy Faye opens at Sandefur Theatre

By: Heather Beyer

Rehearsals have been completed and the musical “The Gospel According to Tammy Faye” is set to open this weekend at UA. The musical is a new work composed by JT Buck and is directed by Dr. Susan Speers.

“I am really excited to see the musical, especially because it is an original musical and one of the writers [Buck] was my teacher. I had no idea that he had written a musical, so I am really excited to see what he has done,” Theatre Arts major Sam Ost said.

Tammy Faye Messner was a televangelist best known for her excessive makeup, on-screen crying, scandals and her battle with cancer. The musical chronicles the life of Messner and begins in the year 2003. Messner learns that her cancer has returned, and the audience is taken on a journey of her life through her memories.

“The opening of the show it going to be wonderful; this musical is not set up in the same format of an average Broadway musical. The audience will be fully part of the story of Tammy Faye and all that she stands for. There will be laughing, crying and thought-provoking scenes,” actress Kristen Weibel said.

In the musical, Weibel plays multiple characters.

“I truly have the most fun with playing the Drag Queen,” said Weibel. “I get to be over-the-top and experiment with different ways of playing a boy who is pretending to be a girl. It has been a bumpy road, but hopefully I’ll play the character true to what the writer wished.”

Chris Simmons, Education graduate student, is certainly no stranger to the stage. He has performed several times at the University.

“I have loved working on this show,” Simmons said. “Having the opportunity to work on a new musical while it is still being tweaked and developed was an honor. I have worked with Susan and JT many times before this. In fact, I believe this is my fifth time working with each of them. Each time I have taken away something new that helps me to grow as a performer, and I am just truly grateful for all the opportunities I have had with both of them.

“This cast is amazing,” added Simmons. “To have so much talent crammed into 15 people is truly remarkable. I have loved coming in to work with this amazing cast night after night. I will miss them when it is all over and done with.”

Simmons plays Jerry Falwell. He describes his characters as “definitely not a nice guy in this show. His passion and determination are qualities I would hope to identify with; however, I hope I do not apply them to negative emotions and vendettas as Falwell does in this show. On the other hand, playing a role that is so opposite of myself really is quite a challenge and actually a lot of fun.”

“The Gospel According to Tammy Faye” opens the theater program’s main stage season with eight performances beginning Sept. 8 at Sandefur Theatre in Guzzetta Hall. Performances are Sept. 8-10 and 15-17 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 11 and 18 at 2 p.m.

“Tammy Faye had such an amazing roller coaster of a life and through it all her compassion and her faith never left,” Simmons said. “I am truly inspired by her. That is what I will take away from this experience. That and the memories of working with such a wonderful cast.”