"Unrelenting" - the title of the production - describes the love of God, pursuing his people through the lives of Old Testament figures right into the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.
"It's a modern version of (the Old Testament prophet) Hosea," said director Vicki Modert, Blythefield's head of worship ministries. Modert and her writing team fashioned the original script.
A contemporary couple's marriage is strained with rumors of the wife's infidelity. Even when the truth comes to light, the college professor forgives her and "buys her back," exactly as God told Hosea to do for his unfaithful wife.
"The flashbacks to characters like Adam and Eve, Noah, and Abraham lead to the coming of Christ, who is the ultimate gift to win us back," Modert said.
Although parts of the Hosea story have adult implications, the script is family-friendly and suitable for all ages.
Actor Kyle Warmington reprises his role as Jesus, who takes the lead in the scenes in ancient Jerusalem, including the familiar places in the Holy Week story.
A GROUP EFFORT
Modert says that when all the cast, chorus, small orchestra and behind-the-scenes/technical people are counted, more than 300 volunteers come together on the production.
She estimates around 90 are children and pre-teens.
Luke Owens and Kelsey Merrill portray the contemporary couple. Among the biblical characters are Moses (Jeff Hall), Abraham (Dean Lamb) and Mary Magdalene (Becky Nordquist).
Music director Forrest Wakeman has written three original songs for the production. Several others have been borrowed from the oratorio "Saviour," which carries the salvation story from creation to the cross. "There are also a couple of contemporary songs," Modert noted.
Blythefield's sanctuary is a "theatre-in-the-round" in reverse: the audience in is the middle, with three stage areas across the front and two in the rear balconies.
The staging, range and multiple speaking parts require 40 individual wireless microphones.
"We have live animals and children... we're breaking both those theatre rules," she smiled.
BUILDING ON THE PAST
The Rockford Church has been doing these Easter productions since 1992. And Modert has been there for all of them. Before they expanded their sanctuary several years ago, the church rented the auditorium at Rockford High School for the stage dramas. Now with a seating capacity of 1,250, potentially 5,000 persons could see the play over the four performances.
The director has heard from some participants that the "living" Easter story has been a key part of their spiritual experience, and they want to give back by investing themselves in the production.
For the longtime director, two highlights emerge that keep her coming back year after year. "One is just the worship experience of the cast really focusing on Christ and what he did for us," she said.
"And then there's the opportunity to share the good news we've found with everyone in our community who comes through the door."
Using biblical stories as a framework to share God's redemptive work at Easter is right in line with what has been called "the greatest story ever told."
"Unrelenting" – a modern Easter musical drama
7pm April 18-20; plus 1pm matinee Sat. April 20.
Blythefield Hills Baptist Church, 6727 Kutshill Dr. NE, Rockford.
Tickets are $6 and are available online via www.dramaseats.com or at the church box office. Info at 616-866-9597 x102.
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