June 30 2010 12:00 AM

John Lepard goes back to his musical roots


For director John Lepard, the story of Lansing Community Colleges "Smoke on the Mountain" definitely hits home.

A former Baptist church group member himself, Lepard has related the musical to his own youthful experiences as part of The Lepard Family Gospel Singers.

“For me, it’s a revival," he said. "We used to have these revival concerts where it would be a weekend and you might have several different churches come together in a tent for a tent meeting."

Lepard says the play is really a comedy about the funny things people have said at the gospel tent meetings. He mused about an instance his group had with a preacher at one of the weekend meetings.

“(The preacher) would say things explaining Hell, like, ‘The pain would be so bad, it would burn like when you touch an iron and it blisters and welts on your finger. Imagine that on your whole body. But not for a second, forever. You never escape.

“Then there was the other side where they would tell us of how great Heaven is going to be, the part where (we were told) we’re going to feel no pain and Jesus will be there with us. Most of the play is that side.”

The cast includes theater and music students from LCC and Michigan State University. Lepard says a lot of the show will involve musicians playing intricate  harmonies on a range of instruments, and the acting cast playing with dialects from Southern regions.

He insists that although the play is billed as a comedy, it is neither a parody nor a caricature of the people involved in the story, just a story about young people trying to loosen up as they’re pushing into the modern world.

“If you were to look at it now, think of a small rural church and they decide they want to have a rock band playing on Sunday mornings with electric guitars,” he said. “That kind of pushing into the modern world.”

"Smoke on the Mountain"

Lansing Community College Outdoor Amphitheatre 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 7, through Sunday, July 11. Free