'Ruth: The Musical' debuts at Grace Church

Steve Stein / GateHouse Media Illinois

MORTON — Seven years in the making, “Ruth: The Musical” will have its world premiere June 16 at Grace Church in Morton.

David Getz is the composer of the musical, which is based on the Old Testament’s Book of Ruth, a tale of grief, kindness and redemption.

Getz, a lifelong Morton resident, is the orchestra director at Morton High School and assistant orchestra director at Morton Junior High School. On June 12, he turned 28.

There’s no admission charge for the 7 p.m. show but donations will be accepted for Peoria Rescue Ministries.

As rehearsals dwindled to a precious few in recent days, Getz said he wasn’t nervous about the debut of the musical.

“That’s because I’m so blessed to have such talented performers, especially as a first-time composer,” he said.

Professional soloists Courtney Huffman (as Ruth), Alison Richter-Meuth (as Naomi) and Steve Williams (as Boaz) will perform in the concert-style show with no dialogue or choreography. Huffman and Richter-Meuth are sopranos. Williams is a baritone.

There also is an eight-member choir and the accompanist is Getz on the piano.

Twenty-seven songs are in the show, 13 with the choir. Phil Witzig will conduct the numbers with choral participation.

Getz describes the style of music in “Ruth” as classically inspired musical theater.

“There are moments where it may sound like an opera and moments where it may sound like a show tune,” he said. “The music is very melodic and hopefully will be easy to follow.”

Witzig, director of the Morton Community Chorus’ annual rendition of Handel’s “Messiah,” met Getz last fall when Getz had most of the songs for “Ruth” written.

Witzig came away impressed.

“Dave gave me a preview of the music, and in a word, I was completely taken by its beauty,” Witzig said. “As I have been learning the music over the past few months, there have been many moments when the music and message have brought tears to my eyes. This music has real potential and needs to be heard.”

While the musical tells a religious story, Getz said, he looks at it more as a work of art. And he’s happy his work of art will aid Peoria Rescue Ministries.

“I want to use art to help others,” he said.

Getz wrote the first song for what would become “Ruth: The Musical” in November 2011. He was a senior music education major at Illinois Wesleyan University at the time and home in Morton for a weekend.

While listening to a sermon on the Book of Ruth by Rev. Doug Habegger at Grace Church, Getz’s home church, Getz wrote the lyrics and melody for a song on the back of the church bulletin.

Over the next several years, Getz wrote one or two more songs for the musical each year.

Getz said he wrote a couple songs during a 2014 sermon on the Book of Ruth by Rev. Dave Berry, then the pastor of Jacob’s Well Community Church in Normal, which Getz attended from 2012 to 2016 while he was a student at Illinois Wesleyan.

Berry will give welcoming remarks at the premiere.

Getz said he was inspired to finish writing “Ruth: The Musical” when he landed a spot in the Peoria Players Theatre’s 2017 production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” fulfilling a goal of performing in a musical.

“Being in that show opened my eyes to what a great vehicle theater is for telling a story,” Getz said. “And the enormous work it takes to put on a musical.”

Thanks to a grant, donations and Grace Church not charging to use its facility, most of the costs of presenting “Ruth: The Musical” are being covered.

So are the costs of a documentary being done by videographer Micah Hancock.

“Micah wants to capture the story of the production and premiere,” Getz said.

“The goal of the documentary is to inspire local artists to dream big about ways their art can impact their communities.”

Choir members for “Ruth: The Musical” are Habegger, Claire Huette, Lauren Williams, Sarah Finck, Bethany Pittenger, Issac Funk, Gary Roseboom and Payton Drake.

Steve Stein can be reached at stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.

What: World premiere of “Ruth: The Musical.”

When: 7 p.m.Saturday, June 16.

Where: Grace Church, 1325 E. Jefferson St., Morton.

Admission: Free; donations will go to Peoria Rescue Ministries.

Information: www.theruthmusical.com.

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