“Visionary Man” is by far the best show in town right now. Alright I will admit that since I have not seen every other show in town that is not a fully supported statement but I am willing to bet that it is a correct statement. “Visionary Man” currently at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood’s Theatre Row is a powerful, brilliant yet warm and fun show depicting the amazing life of the fascinating materially poor but spiritually rich Georgia dirt farmer turned world renown painter J. B. Murray. J. B. Murray was to some extent a stereotypical poor southern farmer with eleven children and a strong sense of faith in God. But in his 70th year of life J. B. Murray was visited upon by the Holy Spirit. Charged by his message from the Holy Spirit J.B. Murray committed the rest of his life to his art. To everyone’s amazement including J.B. his paintings garnered the glowing attention of the worldwide art community. But for J.B. it is not about fame or fortune but a matter of faith.
The musical “Visionary Man” is based upon the book “In the Hand of the Holy Spirit: the Visionary Art of J. B. Murray” by Mary Padgeiek with musical arrangements by Teresa Ruiz and Bryan Shaw. Of course no story can be told on stage without a cast and in this case the entire ten member cast performs at the peak of the art. Will North is strong and completely effective in his role as Dr. Williams. Yorke Fryer shows true star quality in this portrayal of Samuel, J. B.’s hard charging politically ambitious son. Sequoia Houston delivers her character Juanita with humor and grace. In fact the entire cast was just plain awesome, a much over worked word I admit but spot on with this production of “Visionary Man.”
However, it is Jimmer Bolden as J. B. Murray who is as near as anyone can be to perfection in his execution of the role. Bolden has a deep and rich history in musical theatre and is also a highly regarded and much recorded jazz vocalist. His enormous skill as a vocalist shines brightly through in this production.
I found it fun and refreshing for a modern musical to actually treat the concepts of God and the Holy Spirit and religious faith with honesty and dignity while preserving the fundamental integrity of those who are not necessarily believers. It is true that faith is critical to the core of this show but it is so without pretense. In fact a fair summary of “Visionary Man” is that it rich display of real faith, boundless hope and true love. In a very rare experience for a smaller venue the cast received an immediate and full standing ovation. They had earned it and it was a beautiful thing to be a small part of. The quality of this show is such that to experience it is to change your life in very good ways forever.
“Visionary Man” from Spirited Hands Productions is playing at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90038 now through August 31st. Showtimes are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM. General Admission tickets are $28 and student tickets with proper ID are only $15. Reservations and further information are available by calling 323-960-7787 or online at: www.plays411.com/visionary.
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Copyright 2014 Ron Irwin