Christian theater aims to keep it real with “The Fourth Cross”

April 9, 2013 

— Special to the Fort Mill Times

Two thieves, a murderer and a carpenter face their deaths. With one man set free, another faces the greatest sacrifice.

“The Fourth Cross” tells the story of two men who, while they lived differently, wanted the same thing. The show opens April 13 at the NarroWay Theater and Conference Center, located at 3327 Hwy. 51 in Fort Mill.

Established in 1997, NarroWay adapted its outdoor shows, originally in Myrtle Beach, to the indoor theater now located in Fort Mill seven years ago. The theater focuses on shows with a Christian message.

“The Fourth Cross” explores the childhood of Jesus and Barabbas and tells the story of how Jesus, who loved peacefully, and Barabbas, who wanted to fight, came together at the cross, said Cheryl Lipian, director of marketing and public relations for NarroWay. “It’s a story about a cross that was never used,” she said.

While Barabbas is pardoned, Jesus is crucified on the cross. “[Jesus] died in our place,” Lipian said. “That is our story.”

Lipian said the show tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion from Barabbas’ point of view.

“It’s the story of how Barabbas felt to have an innocent man die in his place,” she said. “It’s a Bible story many people have heard told in a whole different way.”

The show will be in a style of a full Broadway musical, with an appearance by some of the theater’s animals, including a camel, horse and goat. The show’s actors are volunteers ranging from 3 to 80 years old.

“Their talent is incredible,” Lipian said. “It’s the type of show that the audience stands on their feet at the end.”

Lipian is also in the show herself.

“To be a part of it makes it come alive,” she said. “It’s a story of hope, forgiveness and inspiration.”

One of the NarroWay’s well-loved shows, Lipian hopes “The Fourth Cross” will bring more people from the community to the theater. “I don’t think many local people realize we’re here,” she said.

“The Fourth Cross” represents the beginning of a relationship with NarroWay for cast member Albert Hutchens, who joined the cast four years ago.

“I am really thankful for (the show),” he said. Hutchens, 30, plays the roles of Joseph, a disciple of Philip and a Roman soldier. He said the crucifixion scene affected him most. “Reality hits and it drives home that it did happen,” he said.

For cast member Hope Phelps, 37, acting with the NarroWay theater is a family affair. Phelps’ husband and two sons also appear in “The Fourth Cross.”

“We’ve always been in it together,” she said.

Phelps plays Martha, Mary’s sister in the play. She described her scene, in which she works tirelessly to feed 12 disciples, as a lighthearted moment in the otherwise serious drama.

“The Fourth Cross” is cast member Ericka Ross’ favorite show.

“It brings the reality of what the Lord has done to our eyes,” she said. Ross, 36, has been with the theater for six and a half years.

The part of adult Barabbas is played by both Steve Hill and Les Stewart. “[Hill] brings a new twist to Barabbas,” Ross said. “They both do an excellent job.”

Adult Jesus is played by John Phillips in both casts.

Phelps said the theater aims to share their message in an entertaining way.

“People walk out with something to hold onto,” she said. “It can possibly change their lives.”

The diner theater audience will also be fed a meal related to the setting in the show.

“We want people to taste the culture and experience the time,” Lipian said.

“The Fourth Cross” opens April 13 and runs through June 1. The show plays Fridays at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at both 12 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Group rates are also available. For more information and to buy tickets, visit the theater’s website, narroway.net.

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