Musician Frank Zappa once asked the question, “Does humour belong in music?” The question that came to my mind Saturday at the Church of the Rock was, “Does humour and rock music belong in church?”
The Church of the Rock in Winnipeg has been staging Easter plays over the last few years. Morality plays have been around for a long time but I’ve never seen such elaborate productions as the ones they put on in their 1500 seat church / auditorium with full stage and lighting.
Two years ago I went to their Batman play which even had a drivable Batmobile. It was the classic tale of good triumphing over evil. In the end, Superman flew in over the crowd and saved the day. Superman represented God and the bad guys represented Satan.
Pastor Mark Hughes has been adapting popular films and characters into stage plays to deliver positive messages. This year the massively popular Star Wars was chosen and the Pastor spiced it up with rock music, dancing and humour.
The play starts off with the classic 70’s Prism tune ‘Spaceship Superstar’ and Luke Moonwalker jamming on guitar with the Stormtroopers dancing along. The Stormtroopers are played by Danica Hughes, Amy Adolphe and Sarah Anhalt. The setting is the Southern Manitoba galaxy and spiritual warfare is brewing. The evil Derth Vader (played by Jamie Wilson) has kidnapped the beautiful Princess Leah (played by Mark’s daughter Kristen Enns) and if that isn’t bad enough, his Galactic Empire possesses the ultimate weapon, the Death Star, an armoured space station with enough power to destroy the entire peaceful planet of Altona.
It’s up to Luke Moonwalker (played by Derek Zeilstra who is also the musical director) to rescue the Princess and restore freedom in the galaxy. After talking with C3P0 (Garaham Hunt) and R2D2, who C3P0 convinced Luke would be a better translator to accompany them on their journey than one of the vacuum cleaners that was on the stage, Mr. Moonwalker consults Only One Cannoli (Mark Hughes) and Yoga (Steven Ashcroft and Matt Suderman) for advice. Then they go to the Java Hut and recruit Ham Solo (Tim Hamm) and Chewtabacca (Mark Hughes son-in-law who he said didn’t need any make-up).
As is typical of Hollywood movies (but with more dancing and singing and humorous references to Steinbach and Morris), good does triumph over evil and the inhabitants of the Southern Manitoba bible belt galaxy are safe once again.
After the 40 minute play, Pastor/ Director Mark Hughes delivered a Star Wars-infused sermon, likening Derth Vader to the angel Lucifer who was cast out of Heaven after a spiritual battle and sent to the earth to rule over the sinners. He also mentioned how in 1977, Star Wars creator George Lucas’ intention with the film was to reintroduce the concept of religion and that there is another world (spiritual) out there. “Just look at the striking resemblance of ‘The Phantom Menace’ to the devil,” the pastor said referring to one of the Star Wars sequels. It made for some very interesting preaching.
About 1500 attended the 5:25pm show and 1000 attended the 7:25pm show. There were also two shows on Easter Sunday.
The production was very well received by the audience. And yes, by golly, I do believe that humour, and music do belong in religion. Why not, life is too short to be too serious.
All photos by Doug Kretchmer