Saint Heaven

Thom Rivers (Alan Snyder) is a young doctor who left his old Kentucky home after a childhood of paternal neglect. Fast forward to the opening scene in 1957, where Thom’s physician father has died, leaving the poor townfolk of Saint Heaven without any medical care for miles. They beseech him not to return to Detroit. Then, Thom is struck by a romantic thunderbolt in the form of Eshie Willington (Tanesha Ross), star singer of the local church congregation.She’s black, he’s white, which leads a parable of mixed-race romance that, in Martin Casella’s adaptation, is a mile wide in universality and an inch deep in believability. None of which matters so much when its sentiments are expressed in the songs by Keith Gordon. His numbers are sturdily constructed and often soar with gospel fervor or cornpone passion. It also helps that Saint Heaven has voices, costumes, and sets that provide ear- and eye-candy of the highest order. There are a few plot twists along the way, but most of the territory is familiar, with nods to Bye, Bye Birdie, Elmer Gantry, Big River, and a half-dozen similar shows. If Saint Heaven was Broadway-bound and the calendar read 1960, both Casella and Gordon would be ranked up there with Stanley Kramer. 8 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun., plus selected 2 p.m. Sat., 7:30 p.m. Tues., and 7 p.m. Sun. shows. See Web site for complete schedule. Ends Oct. 26. KEVIN PHINNEY

Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Sept. 17. Continues through Oct. 26, 2008

 
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