The appeal of Scripture springs eternal, something Broadway and Hollywood have exploited for decades. Now there’s David M. Sanborn — an actor from a family of past and present Christian relief workers — who has brought his one-man musical, “King David,” to the Promise Theater, infusing the Books of Samuel with the aesthetics of both.
The idea of this family-friendly show — the book and songs are a collaboration between the good-looking, hard-working Mr. Sanborn and his mother, Ellen, who also directed it — involves Mr. Sanborn’s impersonating Hollywood actors (like Jimmy Stewart, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sean Connery) as he inhabits the figures in the life of David (including Saul, Goliath, the prophet Nathan and others).
Many of the renditions are spot-on, while others are less so. Some of the caricaturesque voices are the actor’s own creations. Helping to suggest antiquity are Elizabeth Richards’s simple but effective set and costumes.
But this is a musical, so there are songs, here set to prerecorded music and overflowing with lush arrangements, to say nothing of Mr. Sanborn’s impassioned vocals onstage. The actor, who has been touring with this production for 12 years, draws from a seemingly limitless well of feeling and makes the story wet, really wet, with emotion, especially in the musical numbers. You’ve never heard David suffer like this over the loss of his child by Bathsheba nor his anguished pleas for divine forgiveness. Except maybe in Las Vegas.
Inspirational pop can tend toward overwrought uplift, and so do the songs in “King David.” But families with a taste for this sort of thing will love it. Those seeking additional transcendence after the performance can look forward to “Judah Ben-Hur,” also starring Mr. Sanborn, which he has said he hopes to bring to Broadway in 2010.
“King David” continues through June 27 at the Promise Theater, 316 East 91st Street, Manhattan; (212) 352-3101, theatermania.com.