Writer, director, actor reflect on “Heaven to Heaven” at USF

Local News

A new musical has premiered at the University of Sioux Falls called “Heaven to Heaven,” and on Sunday afternoon there was a performance. The general story is one many know well, but the way it’s told is distinct. The show is a musical, an ironic detail considering how its writer describes himself.

“I have no musical background, don’t know a B from a G, but by the grace of God and his inspiration, in three days and three nights I wrote this, and sat on a shelf for 12 and a half years, and then it was resurrected thanks to the University of Sioux Falls,” said Austin Vanderzee, who wrote the musical.

Director Joe Obermueller explains that USF students as well as a campus pastor and alumni are in the cast.

“The medium of theater is a really great way to tell stories, and why not tell this one,” Obermueller said.

“It’s the story of Jesus, but the thing that separates it is there’s music that walks you through his life chronologically,” Vanderzee said. “Every song takes you from the dream of his birth to him being 12 years old in the temple, to him teaching parables, to him being crucified, and then the resurrection.”

“I would say it’s Jesus’ life in its totality,” Obermueller said.

Vanderzee says he took it upon himself to fill a void.

“I wrote ‘Heaven to Heaven’ because I felt there was a need. Somebody planted a seed in me, it was the superintendent at Sioux Falls Christian, said to me, ‘Austin, I just wish there were more good Christian musicals,'” Vanderzee said. “Well I couldn’t think of any. And so I just decided that God put it on my heart- I would go home, I would sit down and write one.”

Obermueller says the show is bringing in people.

“We have sold way more tickets than we usually do for our fall show, so that’s been thrilling,” Obermueller said.

USF senior Drew Veurink plays Jesus.

“It’s an enormously humbling experience,” Veurink said.

Aside from playing Jesus, he’s a Christian, too.

Dan Santella: What’s it like being a Christian, and playing Jesus Christ in a play?

“It allows you to become so much closer to the character, because not only do you know him, but you believe in his words, and you believe what he did was absolutely true,” Veurink said.

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