Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Malice in the Palace", children's musical tells the story of Esther, downplaying the political overtones

This Sunday morning the Trinity Presbyterian Church of Arlington presented the musical “Malice in the Palace”, by Tom Long and Allen Pote, directed by Carol Feather Martin and Gary Garletts.  The musical (45 minutes) was presented by the combined youth choirs of Trinity, and Ardmore Presbsterian Church near Philadelphia (and, yes, the Phillies are in town today).
When the Israelites were captives in Persia a few hundred years BC, there was not much brotherly love in the king’s court.  The play is a setting of the Book of Esther, and is purported to show how much difference one person (especially a woman, if you want to view it in a feminist perspective) can make. OK, Hillary Clinton might like this.  Esther, one of the Jews, and orphaned, is raised as a foster child and eventually becomes the Queen.
The lead character is not the King himself (Ahaseuras), but his prime minister Haman.  The malice would come from his plan for a “purge” and period of vigilantism, and the antidote is a period of fasting.  One can certainly look at the story is a parable about authoritarianism and how it feeds on itself, and on not just about one unlikely hero, but on how one should behave when faced by people who come knocking. The pattern is repeated throughout history.
There isn’t any “malice” in the performance today, which is rather lighthearted as a musical, even with the sham execution at the end. 
There is a YouTube performance with the Neffsville Mennonite Church (near Lancaster PA). 
The musical has an official site at the Hope Publishing Company here.

Given the attention by the news media to Netanyahu's visit and his claim that Iran (Persia) is an existential threat to Israel, one wonders about the potential political message embedded in a children's play based on the Book of Esther.  But Old Testament Persia predates modern Shiite Islam by about a millennium.
There is also a lesson in pondering the multiple Old Testament captivities of the Jews, part of the collectivist, tribal mindset of ancient times.  Exiles, where Jerusalem was forgotten, lasted so long that whole generations experienced life in captivity as normal, even if was second-class.  
A curious sidelight comes up.  If you Google the title of the musical, you see a curious note about a DMCA takedown notice, which leads to this Chilling Effects post about what seems to be an unrelated work, “Madam Cutie on Duty”, from China.  I wasn’t aware that copyright claims from China could create these issues.


There is also a 1949 film by this name (unrelated, apparently).  I don’t know if this has been adapted to the professional stage.  On Broadway, with adult actors, the “malice” would become more apparent. 

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