LOS ANGELES—"Pearly Gates the Musical" is an original, universal, and ultimately positive experience, which asks us to look within and cherish our lives and the time we have left.
Jason Burns (Scott Ehrlich), a man with a lot going well, such as a beautiful family, lifelong friends, and ownership of a real estate development firm, wants to open a new retirement home that will treat its guests with respect. He aims to call it The Pearly Gates.
Unfortunately in a single day, his business proposal to the mayor is turned down, his wife Sharon (Fiona Bates) is upset that he spends so much time at work, and to make things worse, he was just diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. With only a short amount of time to live, Jason must come to grips with his own mortality and appreciate each moment he has left.
When Jason receives his diagnosis from the doctor, his world starts to unwind. Wishing he had more time, he flirts with the devil and asks, “Will the world continue on without me? Am I not indestructible?”
What follows is one man’s denial, and finally, his acceptance of the human condition. The questions posed to us are: What is truly important? How do we best use our limited time?
The rest of the characters include Jason’s son and daughter, an overbearing Jewish mother, an understanding father (Tony Molina), his best friends, and a dozen or so others, ranging from age 10 to 83.
Some scenes ran a bit long (such as Jason’s passage through the devilish halls of temptation). Technical errors with microphones cutting out also affected the overall appeal, but these were excusable because the singers still performed well.
A feather in the cap for "Pearly Gates" is the original music and lyrics by Joshua Rich, with a live performance of piano, drums, oboe, and bass.
The lively, entertaining and even tearful production was directed by Trace Oakley.
Perhaps even more interesting than the script is the story of its creation. Scott Ehrlich is a real estate developer with success in the Lancaster, California region. He helped turn an underdeveloped section of Lancaster into a burgeoning shopping center, and he’s also actively involved with social goodwill efforts. His experiences shaped the play.
Scott always had the dream of being in a musical, but he knew that without any experience in acting or singing that it would be difficult to land a part. So he wrote his own!
Scott then took the stage as the lead in his own show exactly one year later, after finishing the script, taking acting and singing lessons, finding a cast and director, choreographing the performance and finding a venue.
The Thousand Oaks Civic Center seats 400 and all of them were full, with cheers ringing out for their friends on the stage. With only four performances to its credit, it is a shame that this was the last. "Pearly Gates the Musical" has potential to go far. In fact, the most outstanding performance was by the young daughter, played by Sadie Calvano, who is clearly a rising star.
The true beauty of this production is that 100 percent of the ticket sales and donations went to the Housing Corporation of America (HCA). The HCA provides inner city children with after school programs, playgrounds, tutoring, extracurricular activities, and other charitable community building events. In total they raised approximately $20,000.
Scott told The Epoch Times that the message of the play, borrowing from Socrates and other Greek philosophers, is that "life is built out of individual moments, and the special moments in life are the ones we remember."
It is a common expression to state that “We hope others will remember us after we are gone.”
"Pearly Gates the Musical" advises us to tell our loved ones how much they mean to us right now. Don’t wait until their funeral to reveal the truth. Walk through that gate and tell them how you feel.
"Pearly Gates the Musical"
Thousand Oaks Civic Center
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
For more information, see www.pearlygatesmusical.com