Carolyn Rossi Copeland is the executive producer of Broadway's "Amazing Grace." The song Amazing Grace has been in the news, thanks to President Obama, but not many people know the songs' roots are in the birth of the abolitionist movement. What an interesting time for "Amazing Grace" to debut on Broadway...when our country's racial tensions are at a new height.
Carolyn Rossi Copeland founded the Award-winning Lambs Theatre in 1978 where she was Producing Director until 1997. She produced and housed over 50 Off-Broadway plays and musicals, including Cotton Patch Gospel, Painting Churches, The Boys Next Door, and the first revival of GODSPELL. She nurtured the talents of Mark St. Germain's and Randy Couts' The Gifts of the Magi and Jonny Pye. Andrew Lippa's and Tom Greenward's jon and jen and Horton Foote's directing The Roads to Home starring the late Jean Stapleton.
She was VP of Creative Affairs Radio City Entertainment/MSG, where she oversaw the Broadway reincarnation of The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Wizard of Oz tour and A Christmas Carol. She returned to reopen The Lambs after 9/11 until it was sold in 2006. She produced the hit Freud's Last Session which played NYC for 2 years, and Chicago. Amazing Grace has been in development since 2007.
Hallels: Carolyn, thanks for doing this interview with us. You have produced and housed many faith-based broadways, why faith-based broadways?
I believe that every person is responsible for the words we put out into the world. When producing a show, I have a responsibility to put something out into the world that I am not only proud of, but something that can enhance the world we live in. The productions I do have to be commercial, so the public will have interest, but they also have to be something I am proud of. From a very young age I felt called to the entertainment industry with a responsibility to enhance the world with words I produce. It has always been about the message of a show and the way in which you create the message.
Hallels: And why "Amazing Grace"?
Amazing Grace is a true story...of course some artistic license for drama purposes, but the story is real. I did not know anything about John Newton before this experience. John Newton is an important figure in history, and very little is known about him. Everyone knows the song, but no one knows the story behind the song. He was able to go from a wretch to a man who changed the world. With God, people can change. From the music to the story, the show needed to be produced.
Hallels: For our readers who may not be familiar with the "Amazing Grace Broadway Show," tell us briefly what is it about?
Amazing Grace is the story behind the song that everyone knows and loves. Amazing Grace revolves around John Newton, a troubled young man trying to decide what kind of life he should live. Through many encounters with many people, John becomes aware of his sins and his mistakes and begs for mercy and forgiveness. After a transformative moment, he is lead home and marries his childhood sweetheart and begins the work of pastoring a church and starting the abolitionist movement.
Hallels: Who are some of the actors and actresses on this new show?
We have an amazing cast of 31 actors. We have Tony Award nominees Josh Young and Tom Hewitt and Tony Award Winner Chuck Cooper. Our leading lady is Erin Mackay, who played Glinda in Wicked both on Broadway and in Chicago. Also Chris Hoch, last seen in Matilda on Broadway. Some others are Stanley Bahorek, Harriet D. Foy, Laiona Michelle, and Rachael Ferrera.
Hallels: For yourself, what is the most satisfying aspect of this show?
The whole show is satisfying. Every song is so compelling. By the end of the show, the audience is on their feet cheering on the actors while singing the title song Amazing Grace. Before the show is even over, the audience is so moved they have to join in-now that is something I rarely see on Broadway.
Hallels: How do you think this show can inspire Christians as well as non-Christians?
This show is about how man can change. It is about believing through faith and God, you can turn your life around. For Christians, the idea that God is always there and always willing to forgive shines through in Amazing Grace. But for non-Christians, this show is about love and truth. Amazing Grace shows the cruelty of slavery and respects the history of the movement. There are so many aspects of the show that every audience member, from child to grandparent, would appreciate and leave feeling hopeful that they can make a difference in the world.
Hallels: Speaking of the life of John Newton, what qualities about Newton do you admire the most?
John Newton was a terrible man, but finding God, he was able to change and spark a movement that changed the world. I respect the history of the man, and the ability he had to move on from his past, and challenge the government to change the laws of the movement.
Hallels: For our readers who would like to see the show, where can they buy their tickets and see its schedule?
This show is not your traditional Broadway experience. It is entertaining as well as uplifting. Amazing Grace is a big Broadway musical. All information on tickets and scheduling can be found on Ticketmaster or on our web siteamazinggracemusical.com.