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'Amazing Grace' invigorates audience with old time gospel music

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"Amazing Grace" at The Chestnut Fine Arts Center

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Just like always, Brad Zimmerman brings out audience friendly shows to produce at The Chestnut Fine Arts Center in Olathe, Kansas, with the current show, “Amazing Grace” promising to enlighten all attendees with a blend of old-time gospel and contemporary hymns.

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The show opened Thursday, July 10 and runs through Aug. 24. For this production, Zimmerman selected four men and three women to perform a bevy of well-known and well loved hymns. The show opens with a barrage of up-tempo gospel songs and eventually ends with more contemporary church music.

Zimmerman jokes that the first few numbers of the show includes a medley of “every gospel song ever written.” He’s not far wrong. Many would be hard-pressed to think of any other favorite gospel song that was not included in these medleys.

To accompany the vocalists, as always, Zimmerman man’s the piano, but he has added an enhancement, an electronic keyboard, featuring the skills of Cary Mock. Mock’s keyboard provides just a few more elements to make the music spring to life.

The women’s ensemble included Cheryl Clark, Lindsay James, and Alicia Mock. The men’s ensemble of tenor and baritone voices included Jay Coombes, Stephen Dagrosa, Eric Morris and Andrew Schmidt. The show was directed by Cary Mock and Zimmerman in front of a beautiful scenic motif created by Debbie Payne.

Act I’s gospel began with the standard “Amazing Grace,” only to be followed by the medley of gospel classics, “Uncloudy Day,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “The Old Country Church,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “We’ll Understand it Better By and By,”“When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks,” “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In,” “Give Me that Old Time Religion,” “Standin’ in the Need of Prayer,” “Over in the Glory Land,” “Goodbye World, Goodbye,” “Down by the Riverside,” “Getting Ready to Leave This World,” and “Do Lord.”

Following that, individual hymns took center stage with renditions of “The Old Rugged Cross,” sang my Schmidt, “How Beautiful,” by Alicia Mock, “Jesus Is Lord of Al,” by Coombs and Morris, “He Touched Me,” and “When We all Get Together,” by the men’s ensemble. Then the ladies followed with “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?’ by James and Clark and then “My God Is Real,” sung by the women’s ensemble.

Also included in Act I, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” featured the audience in s sing-along, followed by more from the featured performers. Songs included: “I’ll Walk With God,” “Oh, What a Savior,” “Nothin’ but the Blood of “Blessed be the Name,” “There is Power in the Blood.” “Prepare Ye,” “O Bless the Lord My Soul,” “Day by Day,” “All for the Best,” “All Good Gifts.”

Count on Zimmerman to mix things up by tossing in a sing-along in each act of this production as well as something unexpected, like the “It’s All for the Best.” All the aforementioned fit very tightly into Act I. But, Act II always builds to a crescendo at The Chestnut. “Amazing Grace” is no exception to that rule.

ACT II featured another round of favorite hymns: “Heaven’s Joy Awaits,” “He Who Holds Us in His Hands,” “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” “My Tribute,” “You Raise Me Up,” “What a Day That Will Be,” “Ten Thousand Joys,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Life is a Ballgame,” “Heaven Bound/Light of Mine,” “I Shall Wear a Crown,” and “Because He Lives.”

Overall, the show kept the audience involved and clapping enthusiastically after each song. The show is tight and well paced throughout. The opening night performance was free to mistakes and flowed smoothly from one song to the next. Vocalists on queue entered and exited quickly as the next song began. The choreography was light and fun.

As for voices, the mix of the men and women’s ranges fit the theme of the music. The only thing missing was Zimmerman doing a standout piano piece, a comedy piece and the vocal talent of Cary Mock. Still, the show was as uplifting as a Sunday morning at worship.

“Amazing Grace” continues at The Chestnut Fine Arts Center in Olathe, Kansas through Aug. 24. Tickets may be purchased via phone at 913.764.2121 or online at: www.chestnutfinearts.com

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