Celestial City: Combining the Real Life Story of John Bunyan and his “Pilgrim’s Progress”

Glenn Gray as Pilgrim

By Sharon Thiel

David MacAdam is a Pastor, teacher, playwright, husband, father of three, and grandfather many times over. He is also director and founder of New Life Fine Arts in Concord, Massachusetts. With the tagline “Theater you can believe in”, this anointed group has for thirty-plus years dedicated their time and talents to “Provide high-quality entertainment and works of art that reflect the truth of the gospel”, the first of four commitments made on the About page of their website www.newlifefinearts.org.

At least once each year, New Life Fine Arts brings together a dedicated cast of those willing to share their God-given talents   to bring classic and original stories to life in musical productions that rival anything you might find in the major centers of the theatrical world. The costumes and sets are as amazing as the wonderful performances. Everyone involved, from the youngest of children to most senior of seniors in these productions, is a volunteer; both behind and before the curtain. Working together to offer the finest presentation possible to the glory of God, the cast and crew become like a strong family, willing to put in exceptional effort for a treasured common goal.

David MacAdam makes clear that goal in every word he pens for each play and the score that accompanies it. Well known for several musical plays, such as Ebenezer Scrooge: A Christmas Carol; Esther,; Ruth, and  Song on the Wind, this December brings us “Celestial City”, in which MacAdam combines the real life story of John Bunyan and his “Pilgrim’s Progress” allegory, revealing challenges Bunyan experienced in becoming a Christian in his personal life, such as 15 years of imprisonment, during 12 of which he wrote several of the 60 books he wrote in his lifetime, including the most famous, “Pilgrim’s Progress”.

Pilgrims Progress cast

shares that, “Celestial City” is designed to bring those under the sound of the gospel who would come to a theater and musical when perhaps not a church service.” That said, in an earlier interview, MacAdam made clear (and as one who has seen multiple productions of his plays, I can vouch for this with vigor!), “This is not a bait and switch, luring folks to come to see a play then turning it into an evangelical event. New Life Fine Arts tells them a story worth hearing, using wonderful songs and more, and within that story is the Greatest Story Ever Told.” Jesus said, “He who loves the truth will hear my word”. This approach remains true with every season’s production, including this one.

“Celestial City” was originally produced in 1993, and has been seen throughout New England, and in concert form in Australia, several times since, with the goal to improve it each time, in every way. This time it has been 10 years since the last production, so the technology has improved, special effects allow them to do so many things unavailable so long ago, and there is always the desire to improve it musically. MacAdam always tells his team, “I never want a musical that is not ‘plussed’. Whether a new piece or we are re-staging a previous production, I always want to see it improved.”

“It is the Grace of God and the miracle of the Body of Christ, with many members coming together with their particular charism, that makes for the Ultimate Community: when we get believers together to produce theater you can believe in with the gospel at its core.”, said MacAdam.

“Celestial City is a 2½ hour show that has been in rehearsal since September. It includes a ballet, and scenes of vastly varying terrain and circumstance. It is a beautiful story, with incredible sets and staging and outstanding songs that share a message of ultimate hope. This writer has found it an amazingly swift-moving and enjoyable production in the past and looks forward to seeing the 2022 rendition very much.

“What I really love about John Bunyan’s story is that people from every culture can relate to the main character. It is the parable of perhaps life’s greatest metaphor, that of a seeker of truth on a journey, and there are many difficulties,” said MacAdam. “There is the ‘Slough of Despair’ and the ‘Pits of Depression’. There are Hill difficulties, battles with the external enemy, Apollyon; the battle with the internal enemy, the ‘Giant Despair’, and each he is able to overcome through faith in God’s promise, and we see how there is a reward for those who persevere in the upward-call journey of the Pilgrim. My hope is that I want the audience members to be changed, and it’s interesting that I’ve had conversations over the years where people have told me (not knowing I was the writer and composer) that seeing it “had changed their life!”. May the takeaway be that the audience would see their need for Jesus Christ, that they would cast themselves upon Him, trusting what He did for them on the cross. He who lived the life they should have lived, died the death they should have died, and they would own Him as their Lord and Savior and find Life…..and only through Life in Christ Jesus can we arrive at the Celestial City. That’s what I want them to know.”

    The eight performances will be at the Groton Dunstable Performing Arts Center, 344 Main St., Groton, MA (use 343 Main St for GPS directions) at 7:30 PM on Dec. 9, 10, 16, 17, with Matinees at 2:30PM on Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18. Group rates are available. Purchase tickets online 24/7 at www.newlifefinearts.org/tickets or by calling 1-978-795-9075 for more details and special pricing offers.

Leave a Reply