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Josh Young and Harriett D. Foy star in the World Premiere Pre-Broadway Run of "Amazing Grace" in Chicago

Josh Young and Harriett D. Foy star in the World Premiere Pre-Broadway Run of "Amazing Grace" in Chicago playing at Bank of America Theatre until Nov. 2, 2014.

To have the chance to see a new work unveiled BEFORE it heads to New York and Broadway is a special blessing for Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana audiences.

Sometimes a new work is better received than other times, resulting in tweaks and changes before it's revealed on the Great White Way.

Broadway actor and singer Josh Young is the answer to stage prayers, along with a wonderful talented cast of greats in Chicago for our pre-Broadway launch of the new musical "Amazing Grace."

Broadway In Chicago can beam with pride about this world premiere engagement running now through Nov. 2 at Bank of America Theatre

The new musical with music and lyrics by Christopher Smith and book by Smith and Arthur Giron is directed by Gabriel Barre and choreographed by Tony Award winner Christopher Gattelli.

Produced by Carolyn Rossi Copeland, it showcases a story that everyone should know, but likely isn't all so familiar with most of the intricate details.

Based on the awe-inspiring true story behind the world's most beloved hymn it is the tumultuous tale of John Newton, who is portrayed by Young. He is a historical figure described in accounts as a willful and musically talented young Englishman, who faced a future as uncertain as the turning tide. Coming of age as Britain sits atop an international empire of slavery, as detailed in this stage musical, he finds himself torn between following in the footsteps of his father, who is a slave trader and embracing the more compassionate views of his childhood sweetheart, played by Erin Mackey.

The two and a half hour, one-intermission musical connects with audiences in many ways with messages of inspiration, seasoned with romance, humor and history.

Young, who gives a very real and honest portrayal, is a joy to watch on stage. He embodies every aspect of Newton. Mackey is also a beautiful and believable romantic counter in her role. Both have outstanding voices and on-stage presence. Tom Hewitt is in fine form (stern and straight) as Newton's father. Actor Chris Hoch is great fun with his every turn, as ego-mad Major Archibald Gray, one of the heavies in this story. By Act 2, I was entranced by actress Harriett D. Foy as the whip-wielding Princess Peyai, best described as a dragon-lady of sorts.

All of these talent greats are surrounded by a lush and expansive visual element, including remarkable set designs, lighting and costumes. This is a stage triumph not to be missed and an example of theater at its finest.

Smith, the show's creator, wrote his first musical at the age of 17, which was performed at the University of Delaware when he was a senior in high school, was convinced Newton's story "could bridge the gap between ordinary experience and deep struggles of the soul." He has succeeded.

Tickets are $33-$100 at (800) 775-2000 or

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.