The Cedar Park Church in Bothell describes itself as a "cathedral" but is really a campus. It has its own school, parking lots, and a church that resembles the shell of an enormous, bleached horseshoe crab. Inside the sanctuary: a cafe, a giant gold Ark of the Covenant perched above the stage, and racks of brochures for a car-mechanics' ministry and Christian martial arts.
Last weekend, 1,500 people flocked to Cedar Park to watch Generations, an original musical by Daniel Perrin, an evangelical pastor and doctor of worship studies (directed by Karen Lund of Taproot Theatre). Perrin spent 19 years writing his magnum opus, taking two research trips to Israel and one to Poland. The conceit of Generations: Jesus comes back to Nazi-occupied Warsaw to save the Jews. (Their souls, anyway—He did not offer to save their bodies.)
The result of Dr. Perrin's labors is a work of deep conviction and deep befuddlement—bombastic, evangelical dreckcellence. The music, played by a capable 22-member orchestra, sounds like Andrew Lloyd Webber and Meat Loaf spiked with klezmer and squeezed through a fine mesh of Christian pop. The plot scans like a three-way between Godspell, Cabaret, and a performance of Life of Brian by people who don't realize it's a joke.
The plot is confusing, to put it charitably: Jesus is a friendly local rabbi who lightly aids the folks behind the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In act two, the characters jump back in time to first-century Galilee for a scrambled tour of the Gospel's greatest hits. Flash-forward back to Warsaw, where the Nazis shoot Jesus. (Overheard in the pews: "Don't worry, He'll be back.") Jesus resurrects Himself and tells the lead Warsaw character: "Without God, all you have is a ghetto." The Jew converts, the music soars, and the woman behind me mutters: "Yes, Jesus! Awesome!" Generations seems to argue that the Holocaust was primarily a convenient time for Jews to find Jesus. (Because when isn't?)
Special moments: a unified theory of anti-Semitism ("they blame us because they don't have enough jobs or they owe us money"), a poop joke ("at the beginning of his historic campaign, Napoleon put on a red shirt to hide the blood, should he be wounded. Likewise, Hitler put on a pair of brown pants!"), several marriage jokes ("what's hers is hers and what's yours is hers"), and a mournful chorus of "Aryan, Aryan, so barbarian." Perrin had written a third act, which takes place during the Inquisition, but he cut it because it "would've made it too confusing and too long." (Generations is currently two and a half hours.)
"I can see how some people might feel offended by the musical," Dr. Perrin said in an interview after the show. "But it comes from my sincere affection for the Jewish people and the Jewish faith." Perrin has not, to date, heard any complaints about the content. "But," he says, "most people who've seen the musical are the kinds of people who'd walk into a church."
I forgot to mention that, according to Dr. Perrin, this production of Generations cost around $30,000. (Not including the trips to Israel and Warsaw.)