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July 29, 2014

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THEATER:

God Lives in Glass’ — from children’s lips to Las Vegas stage

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PUBLICITY PHOTO

Proceeds from showings of “God Lives in Glass” benefit charities.

IF YOU GO

  • What: “God Lives in Glass”
  • When: 1 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
  • Where: Nicholas J. Horn Theatre, College of Southern Nevada, Cheyenne campus, 3200 E. Cheyenne Ave.
  • Tickets: $25, $20 for seniors and students; 651-5483 or csn.edu/pac

Beyond the Sun

What began as one man’s effort to find solace for his children during a time of stress has grown into a full-scale musical concert that brings comfort to many.

“God Lives in Glass” is a musical revue based on a book by Robert J. Landy, a New York professor who interviewed children worldwide about their perceptions of God and collected their verbal descriptions and pictures.

The musical will be performed Saturday and Sunday afternoon at the College of Southern Nevada’s Cheyenne campus.

Keith Thompson, now conductor for “Jersey Boys” at the Palazzo, composed the music for the production, which has been performed about a dozen times in New York and Las Vegas. Thompson was teaching music in New York University’s musical theater program when he became involved in the project.

He explains how the book and musical came about:

Landy also was a professor at NYU, teaching drama therapy. The seeds of the project were sown when his children were subjected to anti-Semitic remarks at their school.

“Being the drama therapist that he is, rather than answering their questions, he sat them down and had them draw a picture of God and talk about their feelings and putting themselves in perspective and figuring out what it all meant,” Thompson says. “Someone convinced him it was a good project — to find out what other kids’ perceptions of God were. It turned into a global research project, involving kids of every culture, religion, race, ethnicity.”

He took all the findings and published them in a book called “How We See God and Why it Matters.” That led to a second, coffee-table book with photographs and children’s comments titled “God Lives in Glass: Reflections of God through the Eyes of Children.”

“The book doesn’t stress any particular ideology,” Thompson says. “It holds up a mirror to who we are.”

Thompson composed a revue based on the books. It came to him easily.

“It’s such a beautiful thing, the material is so rich,” he says. “It kind of wrote itself. Nothing has flowed so easily from me. I’m so pleased with the way that it sounds.

“It has a unifying theme to it. Basically it’s reaching across our diversities, celebrating our differences as well as our sameness.”

The revue debuted as a low-budget student production at NYU in 2003. “It had the flavor of a workshop,” Thompson says. It garnered favorable reviews and was performed five times. The production was set aside when Thompson went on the road with “Mamma Mia!” Then he became conductor for “We Will Rock You” at Paris Las Vegas.

“So I moved here and after I’d been here about a year I wanted ‘God Lives in Glass’ to resurface,” he says. “It was such a moving and powerful piece and I was feeling the need to connect with the Las Vegas community, not just the artists but the community in general.”

The concerts raised money for charitable organizations, such as Candle Lighters, which helps children with cancer, and Family Promise, which helps homeless families.

Then Thompson went on the road with “Jersey Boys” — landing back in Vegas when the hit musical found a home here. And he has resurrected “God Lives in Glass.”

This weekend’s production will include a 45-member choir, a 15-piece orchestra and nine dancers.

Philip Fortenberry, a concert pianist and associate conductor for “Jersey Boys,” will provide musical accompaniment. Fortenberry was the pianist for the production when it debuted at NYU.

Thompson says he’s content that the show will raise money for charities. This weekend’s shows benefit Family Promise and the CSN Performing Arts Center.

“The cost to put this on as a commercial venture is slightly prohibitive,” he says. “But as a fundraiser, people will come together and give of their time. So far, the fundraising has been the way the show has managed to stay alive.”

CORRECTION: This story was changed to correct the performance days. | (October 20, 2009)

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