A congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
A Multitude of Talents


Drama at Holy Cross
The dramatic efforts at Holy Cross have ranged from solo efforts depicting biblical characters to productions involving many people. Three endeavors stand out, however, as bringing much pleasure to all involved.

Lazarus
Lazarus is Bread for the World's Musical on Hunger and Poverty written by one of its staff members, Joel Underwood, who began the piece in 1985 and finished it in 1987. Based on the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, the musical highlights the problem of hunger and poverty in the dual contexts of the biblical faith and the modern world. Usuing only members of Holy Cross in the cast and with accompaniment of mostly piano, Holy Cross presented LAZARUS first in 1995 and then again in 2005. In a word, LAZARUS "worked." Several of the characters were meaningful and the message came through. It was powerful in its simplicity.

Amahl and the Night Visitors
Amahl and the Night Visitors is a one-act opera written by the 20th-century composer Gian-Carlo Menotti. Except for some villagers, the cast of AMAHL has only six characters, the three Magi on their way to Bethlehem, a page who is with them, and a woman and her young son. The plot of the opera is simply what happened when the Magi stopped at the hut of the mother and son to spend the night on their journey.

The musical people of Holy Cross acquired professional help to stage AMAHL in January of 2008. Three of the main cast members were guests of the church and a professional orchestra accompanied the performances. In addition, the services of director and choreographer Toby Nicholson of Winnetka, Illinois were acquired to pull together all aspects of the production. Further, it was most fortunate that professional costumer Diane Hinman is a member of Holy Cross. Her work gave an authentic touch to the entire look of the effort. And members of Holy Cross built a very simple, yet effective, set.

All productions of AMAHL must possess a strong character playing AMAHL or the show has no chance of success. Holy Cross was blessed in obtaining the services of 10 year old Malcom Durning of Winnetka, Illinois who in 2009 received a JEFF nomination, the Tony awards of professional Chicago theater. Malcolm carried Holy Cross's production on his small shoulders and every other member of the cast was motivated to match his effort. Lisanne Barnes-Seymour of Chicago was especially delightful in her role as Amahl's mother.

With Randy Casey conducting the orchestra, the production of AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS at Holy Cross was magical. Everyone in the audience was touched in some way and all were motivated to make their own journey to Bethlehem. Children filled the front row of the sanctuary to see the production because one of their own age and size was the star of the show.

Noye’s Fludde
Noye's Fludde by Benjamin Britten is a one-act opera written especially with children in mind. The characters in the work are the Voice of God, Noye and his family, and the animals. Britten called for the animals on the ark to be children. With costumes handmade by Diane Hinman, the children of the Holy Cross production stole the show.

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was the second greatest British composer of the 20th century after only Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872- 1958). Britten's NOYE'S FLUDDE is regarded as a "minor master piece" and is patterned after a medieval miracle play. Thus, the composer specifies that some members of the cast and orchestra are to be amateurs and that a theater is NOT to be the place of performance. The miracle play aspect of the work also accounts for the unusual spelling of the title and of some of its text.

Holy Cross member George Bueltmann was a strong Noye and his family was also church members. The Voice of God was a local radio personality with an especially deep voice. The orchestra, conducted by Randy Casey, was completely professional and included every instrument Britten called for in his score. The set was built by members of the congregation and was dominated by an ark 52 feet long; lighting was also handled by church member Chuck Allen who created a colorful rainbow over the ark at the end of the show to great effect.

The result of everyone's effort on NOYE'S FLUDDE produced the finest musical moment in the history of the Holy Cross congregation. It created a memory of a lifetime for all orchestra members, all of the cast, all of the crew, all of the costumers, and certainly for everyone in the audience of the four performances.

Ironically the future of dramatic efforts at Holy Cross is uncertain because NOYE'S FLUDDE was so tremendously successful. A clue to that future, however, may lie in the fact that Benjamin Britten wrote at least two other miracle play type works and the centennial of Britten's birth is not far away.

God has blessed the artistically minded people of Holy Cross and their efforts. Surely His grace will abide in the endeavors at Holy Cross, dramatic and otherwise.