Slover's 'Joyful Noise' in Pennsylvania
LANCASTER, PENNSYLVANIA -- LDS playwright Tim Slover's look at George
Frederick Handel's "The Messiah" just finished a run at Lancaster's
Fulton Opera House just as Slover's most recent work, "Hancock
County" debut's at BYU. But a news story about the play in the
Lancaster News shows how the play's shot at Broadway was killed by a
bad review from a music critic, who saw the play in place of the New
York Times' theater critic.
"Joyful Noise" debuted in November 1999 in Coronado, California, and
was such a hit that the company took the play to New York's Lambs
Theatre off-broadway the following February. The buzz about the play
was so strong that the venerable Shubert Theatres were looking at
producing the play on Broadway, a move that would have catapulted
Slover to the top ranks of US playwrights.
But the New York Times chose to send a classical music writer to see
the show instead of a theater critic. And the music writer covered
the show, which used recorded music instead of live performance, as
more of a musical performance. "He actually walked out on the play,"
Slover told the Lancaster News. The review, because it appeared in
the influential Times, sealed the play's fate, keeping it off
broadway permanently. Slover instead settled for an agent and
publisher, and more recently an option to make the play into a movie.
In fact, observes the Lancaster News, the play has many compelling,
little-known aspects. Unlike modern myth, "Joyful Noise" shows,
Handel didn't write "The Messiah" in response to divine inspiration,
but because his career was in decline and he desperately needed a
hit. Under a tight schedule, Handel wrote quickly and actually
"borrowed" some of the oratorio's themes from his own music and from
And when the oratorio was introduced, it had stiff opposition from
the Church and from anonymous letters in London newspapers which
called it a sacrilegious attempt to make entertainment out of the
gospel. It also suffered when the oratorio's leading lady-soloist,
Susannah Cibber, was caught in an adultery scandal at the time of
"The Messiah's" 1741 premiere -- one that made her "the Monica
Lewinsky of her day" says Slover.
The Lancaster News also mention's Slover's "Hancock County," which
looks at the politics influencing the trial of those accused of
killing Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and his earlier play, "God's
Fisherman," a one-man play about Slover's great-great-grandfather,
The article also mentions that Slover taught and is good friends with
Mormonism's other nationally-known playwright, Neil LaBute. But
Slover modestly says he can't claim credit for teaching LaBute
anything, "It is overstating the fact to say I taught Neil LaBute
anything. He was enrolled in a doctorate program he never felt the
need to finish, but we became close personal friends."
Getting a new Handel on 'Messiah'
Lancaster PA Sunday News 27Jan02 A2