The cast rehearses The Spirit In Us, which will be presented March 14 at Fassett Middle School.
When Keith Klewer was feeling inspired to write a Christian musical, he decided the world didn't need another Easter or Christmas cantata.
He wanted to find a biblical topic that few composers and lyricists had explored, and sought advice from his pastor, the Rev. Beth Giller of St. Mark Lutheran Church in East Toledo.
"She didn't hesitate. She said 'Pentecost,' " Mr. Klewer recalled.
He found plenty of Scriptures and ideas about Pentecost - the day the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit - in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.
"There are so many passages you can draw inspiration from. It was like someone turned a faucet on. The songs just flowed out - the melodies, the harmonies. It was like the Holy Spirit was moving in me," Mr. Klewer said.
He started writing in early 2007 and "The Spirit In Us" made its debut at St. Mark in May, 2008.
It was so well-received that the church was asked to do an encore, Ms. Giller said, and its return engagement is set for March 14 in the Fassett Middle School Auditorium in Oregon.
Mr. Klewer is delighted to have his musical about the Holy Spirit performed in a secular setting.
"In church, you're reaching people who already know the message. In a theater, you can reach people who haven't heard it," he said.
The play begins with the women arriving at the empty tomb and finding that Jesus was resurrected. It then follows the experiences of the Apostles, especially Paul after he is arrested and taken to Rome, Mr. Klewer said.
"You could write a two or three-hour cantata with all the stuff that happened in Acts and the end of Luke. But I tried to keep it down to an hour because it was [originally] during a church service," he said.
When he finished the first draft, he gave it to Ms. Giller for her insights. She added brief narrations to tie the scenes together.
"Unless you know the [biblical] story, it wasn't going to make sense," Ms. Giller said. "So now it has different disciples coming up and giving some history and providing the transition from song to song," she said.
"The Spirit in Us" features a dozen songs that are performed by a cast of 19. Another 15 people work behind the scenes.
Mr. Klewer and his crew have received a lot of help from the Oregon Community Theatre, which is working with St. Mark to present the cantata.
Asked to describe the style of music, Mr. Klewer said the songs are "soft rock, not real edgy stuff like you hear on YES-FM but not Southern gospel like the Cathedrals. I guess it's middle of the road."
Mr. Klewer, 51, has always been a musician, mostly as a hobby. He plays piano and drums, and is the drummer in the pit band for "The Spirit in Us."
He worked as a special agent for the U.S. Treasury and retired after 30 years.
Ms. Giller said Mr. Klewer is a gifted songwriter who is more interested in spreading the Gospel message than receiving any personal glory.
"He is a very humble, gifted, and visionary musician," she said.
"The Spirit in Us" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. March 14 in the Fassett Middle School Auditorium on Starr Avenue in Oregon. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, available by calling Cathy Klewer, 419-693-8878. Tickets also will be available at St. Mark Lutheran Church, 611 Woodville Rd., and at Fassett Middle School before the play.
- David Yonke