Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Red Door’s Production Is Uplifting

By Doc Lawrence

UNION SPRINGS, Alabama- The story behind the musical Cotton Patch Gospel is almost as fascinating as the songs. Clarence Jordan, a Southern Baptist preacher in Americus, Georgia, founded Koinonia, a farm refuge for the oppressed and unwanted. Christian to the core, the only requirement was that you leave your worldly possessions behind and work as you could. The farm is still there and a visit will inspire you to buy pecans and other farm products. If you are lost or lonely, they will offer refuge and love.

The graves of Jordan and his wife are on a Koinonia hill. When you enter the farm, there’s a sign that says Koinonia is the birthplace of Habitat for Humanity. The mission of Jordan and his followers lives on.

I interviewed Tom Kay, the creator of the stage production back in the 1990’s and learned that everything audiences enjoy from the musical is the direct result of inspiration. The story is true to the life of Jesus. Key, a playwright and actor is also a native of Birmingham. He used Jordan’s colorful substitutions of places and people, and Harry Chapin added a bluegrass gospel score. The result is a highly entertaining two hours that appeals to audiences from Broadway to London. On an Easter afternoon, I took my late mother to see it at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and remember her smiles and laughter.

Unlike Jesus Christ Superstar, another Broadway/Hollywood hit, Cotton Patch Gospel is consistently uplifting with all the energy of those revivals and outdoor singings I recall from my baby days around country churches. Gospel music buoys the sagging soul and lifts the poor in spirit. What we lacked in material things were replaced with the joyous voices and harmonies celebrating the birth, life, death and resurrection. And everything was fun.

Tom Key is a Birmingham Native
Cotton Patch Gospel is based on the book The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John by Reverend Clarence Jordan. The Gospel is presented of rural Georgia and the events of Bethlehem are transferred to Gainesville in North Georgia, The first song is "Somethin's a-brewin' in Gainesville." Herod is the evil mayor of Atlanta and Pontius Pilate is Georgia's governor.

Critics everywhere praise Cotton Patch Gospel. The story is everlasting. And who said that the greatest story ever told couldn’t entertain? My Alabama-born mother, as devout a Christian as possible, loved every second of this live stage wonder.

Where Cotton Patch was Born
ast as Georgia’s governor. Jesus is lynched by criminals only to rise triumphant.
And so will you.

 Union Springs, a charming and very friendly city, is an easy drive from Montgomery or Atlanta. And it’s very close to Koinonia. Red Door Theatre is in an old church, just perfect for Cotton Patch Gospel.  Four performances are offered: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, April 24-26, 2014,
Contact (334) 738-8687. www.reddoortheatre.org


Mother’s Day is near. Remember her with a gift that lasts. Southern Thymes Shared, the new hardcover cookbook with wine pairings looks wonderful on a coffee table and she will love the recipes and stories. Available at Amazon.com and bookstores everywhere. Details: http://southwindjourneys.com/assets/southern-thymes.pdf

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