Originally Published by: The Washington Post on 02/09/2022
Written by: Thomas Floyd
When Cinco Paul ponders ideas for a musical, the writer and composer likes to plant himself at his piano, confront the blank page and crank out one song as a “proof of concept.” That’s what happened in 2016, when Paul was considering origin stories to explore onstage and found himself tickled by the idea of a teenage Jesus. But after writing a number of male-centric works, Paul wanted to shape a show around a female protagonist, so his mind pivoted: What if Mary Magdalene had a crush on the boy next door, he thought, and that heartthrob just happened to be the literal son of God?
“So I sat down and I wrote this song called ‘Perfect,’ which is about when [Mary] first meets Jesus and she’s convinced he’s perfect — and, of course, the irony is he is,” says Paul, one of the screenwriters behind the Despicable Me franchise and the creator of the Apple TV Plus musical series “Schmigadoon!” “It was so much fun, and that’s when I thought, ‘Okay, I think there’s something here.’ ”
That proved to be the genesis of “A.D. 16,” whose world-premiere production is now onstage at Olney Theatre Center, through March 6. In the intervening years, Paul composed the music and lyrics for a full show’s worth of R&B songs and recruited “This Is Us” writer Bekah Brunstetter to pen the musical comedy’s book. Stephen Brackett, the director of the Broadway-bound musical “A Strange Loop,” came on board to helm the show. After myriad workshops and readings and a lengthy, pandemic-induced delay, the show is at last in front of an audience.
“The Jew in me fell in love with the way this story of teen Mary Magdalene and teen Jesus meet and crush hard and fall in love,” says Jason Loewith, Olney’s artistic director. “It just felt like such a great way to bring a story from that moment to contemporary times. And it also really, really felt like this is the musical we need now.”
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