Bible stories have become quite popular during the past year on film and stage. However, nothing can compare to the stories of old being told through the eyes of a child. A near-capacity crowd got to enjoy that experience, Saturday, August 2 as the Evangel Assembly of God Fine Arts Ministry presented "Jonah."
The youth production included a cast that ranged in age from five years to adult and offered a contemporary take on the biblical character of Jonah and the Ninevites. But make no mistake, the overarching story of God's love and concern for the people of Nineveh, the great menace to Israel, brightly shined through. According to Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. St. Clair Mitchell, there was "a story behind the story, passing on kingdom values to the next generation."
"Jonah" kicked off with a big bang with the production number, "Jonah Was a Prophet." That was followed by an on-the-scene interview with Jonah who recounted what led to his encounter with the great fish. "Jonah" immediately launched into high gear with a series of ear-pleasing and eye-catching musical numbers that captured the complexities of Jonah's resistance to warn Nineveh, the town's rebellion, the fish experience and ultimately Jonah's repentance and Nineveh's repentance and acknowledgement of God's sovereignty.
The production also allowed the audience to become actively engaged in the belly-of-the-whale experience. Cast members adroitly weaved into the audience, bringing waves across the pews as colorful "fish" swam down the aisles. Strategically placed bubbles filled the the air creating an oceanic voyage. The bubbles of the "ocean" wafted toward the ceiling as the fascinated crowd, many of them children, tried to catch them. The interactive touch was reminiscent of a Sight and Sound experience.
The choreography by Erika Ramalingam helped to bring the story to life in a vibrant way under the fine direction of Anita Ramalingam
Pastor Jessieca Riley, Evangel's Fine Art Minister commended the cast for their hard work and shared how set designer Jessica Ramalingam came up with the great fish just in time, while also being responsible for constructing the majority of the set. She also noted that LaWanda Wilson had selflessly volunteered to make costumes for the cast even though she was not a member of Evangel. She offered accolades to so many it was obvious it was truly a team effort.
The night did not go by without the very important altar call. Led by the Children's Pastor, Eric Osborne, approximately 10 people gave their lives to Christ.
No doubt, this is just one of many youth productions that Evangel Assembly of God will present. With its off-Broadway style and relevant approach to storytelling, shows like "Jonah" are perfect for family-friendly fun.
Evangel Assembly is located at 5900 Old Branch Avenue, Temple Hills, MD. Sunday services are 8 a.m. and 10 a,m. with Bible study each Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. For additional information, visit www.eagcs.org.
All photos courtesy of Milton Miller