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Theatre Talk: 'The Cotton Patch Gospel' is a 10 out of 10

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News

"Cotton Patch Gospel" earns a 10 out of 10! It's not re-imagined, it's revitalized.

Even though Lamb's Players has been telling this story since the early 80s, director Gilmore Smyth has revitalized the show into a heart-warming, toe tapping, knee-slapping, banjo-picking hoe-down.

It's part tent revival-part traveling minstrel show. Using the Gospels of Matthew and John as inspiration, "Cotton Patch Gospel" is a reminder of His life albeit Smokey Mountain music style, so naturally, there is a "fiddle in the band."

And it fills the air. While "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," the Scottish reel known as "Chicken in the Bread Tray (Basket)" is often called "Soldier's Joy," with words attributed to celebrate payday during the Civil War.

Filled with Southern Baptist style old-time religion, "Cotton Patch Gospel" flies by in just 95 minutes. Do I hear a big Amen?

Needing only gentle guidance, this wee cast has big vocals from Johnny (Bryan Barbarin), Matthew (Michael Lewis Cusimanno) and Rock (Ernest Sauceda), who is also the assistant choreographer.

Accompanied by Shawn Rolf, Oliver Shirley, Greg Campbell and Brandon Wallace in the band, there are more instruments than players. This talented foursome plays mandolin, harmonica, guitar, bass, steel guitar, fiddle, banjo and with one violin-style lick from Sauceda.

At this playhouse, the behind-the-scenes talent pool is deep like director Deborah Gilmour Smyth, whose light hand is obvious. Their in-house set designer Mike Buckley has built a real-life barn façade. Jemima Dutra did costumes, Michelle Miles lighting, Patrick Duffy sound, and stage manager Maria Mangiavellano did the rest of it. Special thanks goes to Box Office manager Catie Grady for her help and Colette McCurdy for her kindness.

The original score for C.P.G. was written by Harry Chapin ("Cats in the Cradle") while Tom Key and Russell Treyz adapted the book from the writings of part-time author, full-time Southern Baptist minister and Georgia farmer Clarence Jordan.

As if that wasn't enough for one lifetime, Jordan is also recognized as the founder of Habitat for Humanity. It was his way to assist the residents living on his 400-acre community farm to live with dignity.

Lamb's Players Theatre is located at 1142 Orange Ave., downtown on the sparkling clean Coronado Island. While parking can be tricky on weekends, the solution is to use the garage under the plaza just a few blocks away on Dana Drive. While it's tricky, it is only $10 when street parking is unavailable. Without the box office discount, it can range up to $37! For details email me at [email protected], or ask the box office at 619-437-6000 or 1142 Orange Ave. Coronado. Visit for more information.

"Cotton Patch Gospel" earns my highest rating of 10. Just so you know, God is in the house in Coronado. Amen.


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