Beliefs Culture

It’s lights out for Kathie Lee Gifford’s ‘Scandalous’ Broadway show

RNS photo by Jeremy Daniel

NEW YORK (RNS) In the end, even Kathie Lee Gifford couldn’t save the Broadway musical about a woman who saved souls.

Carolee Carmello in a scene from the new Broadway musical “Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson” at the Neil Simon Theatre.

“Scandalous: The Life and Times of Aimee Semple McPherson” will close Sunday (Dec. 9), a little more than three weeks after its opening. Gifford wrote the book and lyrics for the show based on the life of the pioneering female evangelist whose career was shaken by scandal in the 1920s.

The show was Gifford’s first such Broadway endeavor and the first Broadway musical about the evangelist’s life.

“There’s a sadness that comes with this,” Gifford said Wednesday (Dec. 5) on the fourth hour of NBC's “Today” show, where she is the co-host. “It’s taken awhile to find our audience because nobody knows what our show was. What’s happening now, and this is kind of the sad part, people are coming back second, third, fourth and even fifth times because they love it so much.”

While critics praised Carolee Carmello, a Tony Award nominee who plays McPherson, the musical failed to generate positive reviews. The New York Times called it “generic and dull.” The New York Daily News said the show “could have used Sister Aimee's curative abilities.”

Gifford worked on the musical for 12 years. It grew out of her fascination with McPherson, who is known as perhaps the first modern evangelist and is also known for charges she faked her own kidnapping.

Carolee Carmello (center) and company in a scene from the new Broadway musical “Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson” at the Neil Simon Theatre.

McPherson’s Los Angeles megachurch eventually became the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, which now claims almost 8 million members worldwide.

On “Today,” Gifford said Hurricane Sandy had hurt Broadway attendance and she encouraged viewers to go to theaters. She also thanked those who saw “Scandalous” and praised the cast.

“I’m prejudiced, of course. I’m the mother of this show, but they're the best cast on Broadway,” she said. “I love them to pieces.”


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Ansley Roan

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  • The realdeal Aimee could fill up a stadium several times over. It’s just hard to find someone to depict her who can convey the anointing Aimee Semple McPherson apparently had. I have not seen the show myself, but maybe it will come out on DVD or something.

    The allure of the scandal keeps Amiee alive the contemporary public conciousness. With exception of her family difficulties and power struggles that developed for a time at the Angelus Temple, all else seems the stuff of old ladies leaning on backyard fences. Comedian Milt Berle even inserted himself into this gossip, but I do notice he only did it after she was long dead, his earlier publications make no mention of his claim. As the details he provided to support it are so entirely bogus, I think he was simply telling some sort of cerebral cougar joke

    Some state as a fact Aimee her a kidnapping story as cover for running off with a lover. Even after this accused lover himself stepped forward and said his name connected with the evangelist in such a way was a “gross insult to a “noble and sincere woman. Quite a compliment since he himself did not share her religious views and was considered to be an agnostic. Hmm.. it would seem one would have to thoroughly prove they were kidnapped by missing fingers, voluntary confession of the perpetrators, and one’s dead body in a ditch before the police would investigate it as such in those days… The Verdict is In by Raymond L. Cox, offers a scholarly approach regarding the matter , researched thoroughly from numerous sources.

    Lets not parse the truth too finely. Long after Billy Graham is forgotten, the faith-healer who healed tens of thousands and fed 1.5 million starving people would be forgotten as well, except, perhaps for the perennial noise “as that woman preacher who faked her death and had numerous extramarital affairs.”

    When they come looking to dig up the dirt, they will instead get the gold, –as I have.