Broadway Bound Amazing Grace Workshops at Theatre VCU

The Broadway bound musical (2013) Amazing Grace directed by Gabriel Barre recently workshopped with Theatre VCU students just prior to its premiere at the world famous Goodspeed Opera House in Chester, CT. Scheduled to open on Broadway in 2013, this epic new musical (music and lyrics) by Christopher Smith tells the tale of John Newton, a rebellious slave trader, and the woman who never lost faith in him. Based on the true story of the man who penned the world’s most recognizable song, it’s a musical complete with epic storms, raging sea battles, slavery, romance and redemption.

The Amazing Grace creative team also consists of Theatre VCU faculty and Broadway veterans Toni-Leslie James (costume designer) and David S. Leong (fight, movement, and military director). The Goodspeed team also included two Theatre VCU students: Clayton Winters, a MFA candidate was the cssistant fight choreographer; and Matt Armentrout, a fourth-year BFA Costume Design major was the wig supervisor for the production.Reflecting back upon his experience at VCU, the internationally renowned director Gabriel Barre recalls, “the work was invaluable and truly became not only a huge guiding force for the production but also allowed us to hear some of the material for the first time and explore many options which made their way into the production.  Not only was this beneficial for us, but it became clear (perhaps most importantly) that the students were also getting a tremendous amount out of the experience. We look forward to hopefully having the chance to work with the Theatre VCU team on this show and others again in the future.”


After joining the creative team Theatre VCU Chair David Leong immediately recognized the need to further develop the physical language of the play. It didn’t take long before he convinced the director and choreographer Benoit-Swan Pouffer to agree. “It seemed like a no-brainer that we should workshop this show with our students,” Leong says. “After all, it’s not often that you see a shipwreck, a navy sea battle and slave rebellion played on stage before a live audience.”