Originally created 04/08/00

Easter programs offer audiences variety



White-robed angels of various sizes moved on and offstage Tuesday at Aiken Bible Church while other biblical characters rehearsed their parts.

The 20-member cast will present Angels in Amazement at the church, 390 Croft Mill Road, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 15.

Strange Way to Save the World, recorded by 4HIM, inspired Kay Mortimer to write Angels. In both the song and the play, the angels are amazed at God's plan of salvation, the way he chose to save the world, Ms. Mortimer said.

The original musical/drama is one of this season's Easter tributes at Augusta-area churches. Other production include re-enactments of the Last Supper, one-woman stagings of The Magdalene, and two productions of Saviour: A Modern Oratorio.

Lisa Ison of Cumming, Ga., will present the story of Mary Magdalene's journey through conversion to salvation in The Magdalene. Performances will be at St. Mark United Methodist Church, 2367 Washington Road, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20; Ascension Lutheran Church, 2860 Wells Drive, at 7 p.m. Friday, April 21; and Burns Memorial United Methodist Church, 2372 Lumpkin Road, at 11 a.m. Easter Sunday, April 23.

A drama on Good Friday will be an unusual event at Ascension but one for the good, said the Rev. Mike Freed, pastor. "Normally we don't have anything because the liturgy is so somber."

In the drama, Mary Magdalene, one of Christ's most devoted followers, watches Jesus die on the cross. But her grief and sorrow are turned into incredible joy at the garden tomb -- she is the first person he appears to after his resurrection, Ms. Ison said. "It is a roller-coaster ride."

Town Creek Baptist Church, 250 Town Creek Road in Aiken, will stage a passion play with a combined cast and choir of more than 100 people at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 15, and 6 p.m. Palm Sunday, April 16.

The full-scale musical begins with the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary and goes through Christ's resurrection. The story ends in heaven, said the Rev. Eddie Grant, minister of worship.

Buddy Wilcynski of Tampa, Fla., will portray Christ in the Town Creek drama. "We hope to grow from this from year to year," with changes in scenes, costumes, dialogue and music, the Rev. Grant said.

Gail Marine of St. John's United Methodist Church, 104 Newberry St. N.W. in Aiken, was cast in the church's presentation of The Last Supper for 7 p.m. Thursday, April 20.

In the play, "Leonardo" explains how he created his famous painting before he draws back a curtain to show a living Last Supper scene. A spotlight falls on each actor in the scene -- dressed not as biblical characters but as 15th-century Italian figures. Each steps out and tells his story, Mr. Marine said.

The soaring music Sandi Patti fans have grown to love also will be evident in Saviour: A Modern Oratorio, to be performed at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 16, at First Baptist Church of North Augusta, 602 Georgia Ave.

Saviour is the work of Nashville, Tenn.-based Greg Nelson, Ms. Patti's producer, and Bob Farrell. Mr. Nelson has won numerous Dove Awards and Grammys in the contemporary-music world, said the Rev. Mark Powers, minister of music at the church.

Mr. Nelson felt he had to write the piece but never expected it to sell, the Rev. Powers said. But "it has become very popular. There have been many presentations by larger churches because of its power and contemporary expression in traditional ways."

Soloists for the North Augusta program are mezzo-soprano Denise Cheeks Mundy of Augusta; baritone Lanny McManus of Columbia; and tenors Ryan Abel of North Augusta, Jim Broussard of Greenville, S.C., and Alvin Franklin of Augusta.

First Baptist Church of Augusta, 3500 Walton Way, will present tenor Scot Cameron of Arlington, Texas; baritone Dr. David Robinson and tenor Brian Stratton, both of Fort Worth, Texas; and mezzo-soprano Lee Menefee of Augusta in its production of Saviour at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 16.

Saviour requires proficient soloists to handle the difficult roles, the Rev. Stan Pylant said. "I have a master's in voice, but these are very difficult to sing. The range is demanding."

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 .