Mar 23, 2022–Back in high school, my friend John approached me with the complete libretto (text and lyrics) for an Amish Rock Opera he wanted set to music. I remember the first line to this day:
Just been existing in an Amish world,
Driving my buggy with my Amish girl…
We were quite proud of it, but we had no idea how a couple of kids in Kalona, Iowa, could get a show to Broadway.
Hence my intrigue with Lew King and Rob Ward, two Kerrville residents who are a dress rehearsal away from staging the world premiere of their original musical, For Such a Time as This, opening April 8 at the Cailloux Theater’s VK Garage.
Ward and King aren’t teenagers, and the VK Garage in Kerrville is not Broadway (although Broadway is only 2 blocks away), but getting their original show staged is an achievement worth marking.
Rob Ward–a psychiatrist by trade–has acted in community theater for decades. Lew King carved out a career writing and publishing choral pieces.
The genesis of this project sounds like the first scene in a Mickey Rooney musical.
“We were singing Easter music in the choir at Trinity Baptist Church,” Ward explained. “I looked down at the music and it says written by Lew King. I said, how funny–he has the same name as the guy singing next to me. No one laughed. Lew said, yeah, that’s me, Rob–I wrote it. I was so embarrassed.”
But it was destiny That faux pas led to them becoming friends who discovered a mutual interest in trying to write a musical.
“I told Lew I have this idea for a musical about Esther,” Ward said. “I began to lay it out for him. It took about 15 minutes. He looked at me and said, when do we start?”
The two worked on the book for about a year and a half. When it was ready for a read-through and sing-through they presented it to Jeffery Brown, Executive Director of Playhouse 2000. He gave it the green light.
“We are excited,” said Brown, who will direct the show and conduct the 9-piece pit orchestra. “A new work doesn’t come along all the time. To take time out of your own life, to sit in front of a word processor, and make all those drafts, then massage all the technical aspects, is a leap of faith. Plus it’s a feather in our own cap. None of this happens without somebody who opens the door and says, you want to put that actually on stage? We’ve got the stage.”
Briefly, the story of Esther is about the Jewish maiden who is made queen, then helps King Xerxes put down a plot to annihilate the Jewish people. In the end, the tables are turned, a victory commemorated to this day as Purim. But the playwrights emphasize this is a not a “Christian” show. While it is based on the Biblical account of Esther, they have adapted the story, noting it follows the Disney formula perfectly.
“We’re not preaching anything,” Ward said. “I don’t think that’s entertainment. The message is couched in this incredible vehicle called the Broadway-style musical. That’s entertainment.”
How ever the show is received, going through the process has been positive.
“Rob’s lyrics just sing their way off the page,” King said. “I had no problem writing the music. We decided on the style and what we wanted the song to do. And it just came out.”
“I gave him an idea of what I wanted each song to do. He would come back and it would be everything I wanted, plus more. If we hadn’t clicked, I can’t think that anything that would have been more painful.”
Even if For Such a Time as This goes no further than these performances, hearing their words and songs delivered on stage has been a moving experience.
“To see all these songs that we’ve written dramatized with costume and lighting and choreography is powerful,” King said.
Ward calls it “surreal.”
“When you see your words dramatized, you get the whole depth and breadth of it. It blows your socks off,” Ward said. “I would get sort of lost sometimes watching the thing. I’d think, well, that’s funny. Then it hit me–of course you think it’s funny, you wrote it! We’ll see if other people think it’s funny.”
They’ll find out this Friday.
For Such a Time as This premiers Friday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the VK Garage Theater in Kerrville. Other shows are Fridays and Saturdays, April 15-16 and 22-23 at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays, April 10 and 24 at 2:30 p.m. Seats can be reserved online at caillouxperformingarts.com or by calling or visiting the Cailloux Theater Box Office, (830) 896-9393.