SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A major musical will hit the University of Sioux Falls stage this fall, but it all started small with what one man calls an act of divine intervention.
Austin Vanderzee wrote “Heaven to Heaven, the musical, The Life of Jesus.” He noticed a lack of Christian musicals, and he wanted to change that. It caught USF’s attention, and the two hope it helps unite the faithful who are looking for hope.
Austin Vanderzee is the first to admit he’s not exactly Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“The problem is, I don’t have any ability to write music. I don’t know a g from a b,” Vanderzee said.
Somehow, he wrote an entire musical.
“I took my daughters keyboard and I wrote numbers. I knew there were eight notes and I wrote numbers on the keyboard,” Vanderzee said.
Vanderzee wrote “Heaven to Heaven” after his son performed in a musical at his Christian high school. Vanderzee and the superintendent were concerned about the appropriateness of some of the content.
“Said to me, Austin, I just wish there were more good Christian musicals out there. The moment he said it, I started thinking, where are the good Christian musicals,” Vanderzee said, noting his show has a different feel than “Godspell” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
After working with a Nashville producer on the soundtrack, Vanderzee says he hopes this one answers that question. Now it’s set to debut this fall at the University of Sioux Falls.
“I’ve never been a part of something this young. It’s going to be so fun to take it and see what happens when we put it up on stage,” Joe Obermueller, director of USF’s theatre program, said.
Obermueller says the show, which chronologically tells the story of Jesus, is a unique opportunity for students and faculty.
“We try to select shows here that are challenging, that are provocative. That cover a wide array of topics and themes in the hopes it sparks great conversation and you’ll learn something and you’re uplifted,” Obermueller said.
Auditions are set to start next week, and then the company will begin rehearsals. The show opens November 20th in the Jeschke Fine Arts Center, and Vanderzee hopes to take the show global. To learn more, you can visit usiouxfalls.edu/tickets.
Vanderzee may not be a big broadway producer, but he hopes his work shines a light on a much bigger star.
“I wanted to be available for God, I always have been. That’s how I think Heaven to Heaven came about. I was just the conduit. And now I’ve handed that off to all these other people at USF,” Vanderzee said.