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Oct21TueProduction to be based on General William Booth's funeral covenant. October 21, 2014 by Vivian Gatica
With The Salvation Army's strong history in the performing arts, Boundless: The Whole World Redeeming will feature an array of dance, theatre and music presentations. Among the performances slated for next year's International Congress is a new musical—script by Karl Larsson, music by Kevin Larsson and lyrics by Commissioner Keith Banks. Karl Larsson will direct alongside Barbara Allen.
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The Larssons and Banks first thought of basing the musical—as yet untitled—on the song “O Boundless Salvation,” a hymn written by Salvation Army founder General William Booth. After finding it limiting, they decided to create the musical around the covenant that Booth wrote for his own funeral program.
“It's all tied together with Booth working on this funeral program... there will be small vignettes of him writing that, and then we'll come back at the end, but then the rest of it is true Army stories from around history,” Karl Larsson said. “Hopefully they will be relatively obscure stories with all kinds of different themes from all periods.”
The stories featured in the musical will tie into the process of Booth writing this covenant that he wanted everyone at his funeral to sign.
“We got some [stories] from just a couple of years ago, some from back in the 1910 period, and then in between those we'll jump back and see Booth wondering how the Army is going to be when he goes,” Larsson said. “He's sick, he's ill, he's coming to the end, and he's worried about what's going to happen and that's why he's working on this covenant.”
As the musical is currently under development, Larsson said Banks is a “fountain of all Army knowledge. He helped us find all these stories and he knew ones that people didn't know so much that deserved a wider story.
“As I've been writing the script, I leave gaps in the songs and I describe what kind of song I want, [and] what needs to happen in the song,” Larsson said. “I hand it off to Keith, and then he writes the lyrics and we go back and forth on those. When we're all happy we hand it over to Kevin and he writes the music.”
Casting for the musical was done a year in advance to meet the congress registration deadline. Rehearsals, however, will begin in January 2015.
“We had to cast the play before hardly any of it was written with only having a vague idea of what the characters were going to be,” Larsson said. “We've loosely cast all the main roles in our heads, and we have a really good cast. There's some fun roles I think they're going to enjoy playing.”
Larsson said that like the musical Spirit! II: Empire—which he previously wrote and directed for the USA Western Territory's 2012 congress, The Gathering—the Boundless performance will make good use of technology, incorporating projection mapping for the sets and video interviews of the people actually involved in the more modern stories featured in the production.
“I've seen some of these interviews and it's very humbling. Some of these people are just doing the Lord's work and helping the Army, and we're trying to tell their stories as part of the musical,” Larsson said. “We're going to have a mix of good drama on stage and then we're going to back that up with good use of technology and video [for] a multimedia experience.”
He wants people to be inspired by the stories in the musical.
“All of the stories seem to be a bit dramatic—some of them are going to have you at the edge of your seats—but all of them have a very strong message at the end, and that's partly why we chose them,” Larsson said. “These stories are supposed to encourage the audience to be inspired and to go out and feel good about the Army and feel empowered and motivated to follow these great people.”
Larsson said that there is a deeper goal to this production.
“The idea behind this musical is based on this covenant that was in General William Booth's funeral, and it was a way of people signing that commitment to the future of The Salvation Army,” he said. “We want people to come to the musical to be entertained, but also to be inspired [to] hopefully sign some sort of covenant of their own.”
This story first appeared in New Frontier Chronicle (September 2014).