Hallelujah City

Rated 4.0

“Hallelujah” is in the title, but this new musical by the local team of Lisa Lacy and Charles Cooper isn’t a gospel-driven show along the lines of And The Dream Goes On (their popular piece that was produced from 2004-2006 as part of California Musical Theatre’s Martin Luther King Jr. Project), or their comedy Evangelize! (staged in 2006 in Roseville and Sacramento).

Hallelujah City lives a bit closer to the pop-music universe, with catchy songs like “Calm, Cool and Collected,” “It’s All About the Real Estate,” “Just a Man in Love” and “Whole Lotta Woman,” which draw on styles more likely to be found in a nightclub than a church.

While the story is basically a two-layered parable (with salvation coming into play), it’s not all about religious symbolism. Initially, we meet Christian Alexander, a writer so emotionally devastated by the death of his wife that he’s about to take his own life. Three spirits intervene, and transport Alexander to Hallelujah City: “not heaven or hell, but kind of in between.”

Alexander meets Big Red, an aspiring “spirit guide” who needs to help Alexander see that suicide would be a mistake in order to advance her own salvation—and she shows him some grim alternatives that await those who take the wrong path (Babel and Wailing).

There’s also a somewhat sexy subplot, as Big Red is tempted repeatedly by her man Bigum, a renegade who’s quietly planning to stage a palace revolution and put himself in charge of Hallelujah City—which, we immediately sense, would then become a much less holy place.

This show owes some obvious debts to entertaining morality tales like A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Wizard of Oz—all of which involve metaphorical journeys that transform a central character’s attitude, and most of which are musicals.

Bill Miller, the dapper older gent who has been featured in several Lacy/Cooper shows, plays the patriarchal Professor Beejee’s, who presides over Hallelujah City. Keith Holman plays the desolate writer.

This community theatre production is being staged at Roseville’s Magic Circle Theatre, but it’s also part of the season being planned by Lacy and Cooper’s Images Theatre Co., which has staged small productions in various locations over the past four years. Images has also linked up with the Guild Theatre in Oak Park (restored several years ago by the St. Hope nonprofit, but lightly used for theater since the reopening), with plans to stage a revised version of Lacy/Cooper’s Wings of Freedom in May, and a new drama called Solomon’s Storefront in the fall.