LOS ANGELES, August 19, 2015—The name Sammy Oriti is well known in music industry and entertainment circles. As an Emmy-nominated producer and composer, Sammy has worked with some of the best in the business—including William Shatner—on many premier projects.
But none of them matter much in light of the project that had its inception 27 years ago when he first came to faith in Jesus Christ.
Sammy has written, produced, and scored Godspeed: A Rock Opera, which moves the audience from Creation to the Cross, to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ through the vehicle of rock music. Oriti will premiere GodSpeed over three nights: Friday September 21 through Sunday September 23 at the historic El Portal Theater in North Hollywood, Calif., thanks to the generous sponsorship of Galpin Ford, Ambisonic Sound Technologies, and Arte Divine. Philanthropists Richard and Esther Stewart are executive producers of the play, and also generously sponsored the production, along with the weekend events associated with the rock opera.
“I’ve written millions of songs and stuff like that,” Oriti explained. “I’ve created Emmy-nominated television shows and a lot of those things, once you do it, you move on. Every time I listen to this stuff, it ministers to me. You ever read the same Bible verses over for 10 years, 20 years, you know your passages that you love, it’s food. This is food in music.”
Originally written about the New Testament and the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, over the years the rock opera has been expanded to include Creation, Adam and Eve, and the Virgin Mary. The spectacular stage production will be directed and choreographed by industry veteran Jeffrey Polk, complete with a six-piece live progressive rock band, and 16 singers and dancers who bring the scriptures to life.
“It’s glory to God and a big ‘Hallelujah’ type of ending,” Oriti said. “And what’s coming out of their mouths on stage is scripture verses. If you look at each lyric, I could put Bible verses right next to them.”
In this writer’s mind, the concept of a rock opera seems dated; but like the resurgence of the vinyl recording, everything old is new again. From New York City’s “The Life and Death of Kenyon Phillips”, to the Los Angeles Rock Opera Company, the genre appears to be breaking new ground.
Sammy Oriti’s work may have found its perfect time.
“It’s interesting because we’ve had a major paradigm shift in everything. There was a record business then. Now it’s a digital, kids are growing up not knowing what we had to go through,” Oriti said.
“So now we’re living in a different time, people living in that time can get the message now, globally. I’m giving away the album for free. I want them to fall in love with it, and come see the show.”
The rock opera was first produced several years prior at Sherry Kinison’s Grove Theatre in Upland, Calif., a small suburb 50 miles east of Los Angeles.
“It was very, very, very low budget. But it was on the stage and I heard people singing and playing the stuff,” Oriti said. “The opening night was the first dress rehearsal—but we saw it on the stage. The video that is on our website is edited clips from that. So future videos will be this [new production].”
This three-day showing will be a “proof of concept”, and the movers and shakers in entertainment and the newly-marketable Hollywood Christian entertainment industry will be in attendance.
“We’re inviting everybody who would book it or send it somewhere and give us feedback so we can get it to the next stage. The next stage would be a bigger budget, longer rehearsals and notes from this show. It’s ever evolving,” Oriti explained.
On Thursday, Oriti is inviting pastors and spiritual leaders to a “preview before the preview”. “I believe that pastors will love it because it’s scriptural. That is what I’ve always maintained. I don’t want to go far away [from scripture].
“God has entrusted me with a talent, which is a gift. He’s entrusted me with a purpose, which is a blessing. And he’s entrusted me with the knowledge of scripture enough where I can minister to people.”
And ministry is the focus of the rock opera and the guest speakers. Each night will feature a local ministry, starting with minister, life coach and motivational speaker Tim Storey, who will headline Friday night. Amber Davies from the anti-child trafficking ministry Saving Innocence will be featured on Saturday, and John David Ware of the 168 Film Festival will close out the weekend.
“We decided that since we’re in the early stages, we want people to understand that the show is really about the heart,” Oriti said. “My big vision for Godspeed is an Old Testament, first act, Intermission, and the New Testament second act. We are at an arena, and during the day there are workshops. [Christian author] Phillip Yancey comes to speak, or [Pastor] Tony Campolo, are around the perimeter of the arena; let’s invite for free the real ministry of the cities who are doing the work in the city.”
Oriti’s hopes GodSpeed will become a vehicle that is a tool for evangelism. “Absolutely. I would like it to be a show that the church invites the unchurched, and it moves them: not in a churchy, altar-call type of situation, but in the seed that can be planted, and the melodies. Because the word of God goes forth and does not return void. Dr. Jack Hayford once said that, ‘The word of God is a two-edged sword that pierces through a man’s flesh and bone into his soul, and music is the tip of the sword.’
“Even at the workshop years ago, people were in tears, hands in the air, they were having church in the theater; and we’ll experience that here too. Even at rehearsals. The people who were watching the rehearsals could feel the Spirit. It has that power.”
Tickets for the Friday premiere are now on sale through Sunday. Visit the GodSpeed: A Rock Opera website for details, and enter the promo code: SAMMY to receive a discount on the ticketed price.
For a limited time, music lovers can also download the GodSpeed: A Rock Opera original soundtrack from the website.