It's the very nature of art to evolve. Nevertheless, there are times when the speed at which a piece of art evolves can induce whiplash.
Consider "Orphan Blues: The Gospel Musical," which will be presented this weekend at the West Las Vegas Library Theater by A Source of Joy Theatricals as part of its Broadway in the Hood series. (Because of mature themes, the show is not recommended for children younger than 10.)
When director Torrey Russell -- who also is founder of A Source of Joy Theatricals -- began writing the show just more than two months ago, he was thinking along the lines of an urban/gospel take on the Broadway musical "Annie."
The idea, Russell recalled, was to center the play around a group of orphans living in a Las Vegas homeless shelter and their quest to help a 6-year-old find her father.
But, as Russell began writing the show, he found himself pulled in a different direction.
"I went home and prayed, and it came across my heart to deal with the serious side of orphans," he said.
At the same time, Russell wanted to "share the fact that you can go through anything in this world as an orphan and become something great."
The play explores orphanhood, identity and achievement through a story about a grandmother who takes in an orphaned baby left on her doorstep.
The show's 35-member cast is diverse in terms of age, ethnicity, life experience and theatrical training, Russell said. While some have a strong background in dancing, singing and acting, "a lot of these young people have never stepped onstage before."
In addition, cast members have written monologues for their characters that Russell has incorporated into the show's story line.
The show evolved in another way that thrilled Russell: Singer and recording artist Kelly Price has agreed to join the cast for the opening performance at 7 p.m. Friday.
"I had an opportunity to meet with her while I was out of town working, and I started telling her about the (Broadway in the Hood) program," Russell said.
It is "a passion of mine to work with inner-city youth," Price said during a phone interview last week.
During her own childhood in New York City, few arts groups "came into the areas where I lived," she recalled. "As a kid, I felt nobody ever wanted to come to see us.
"So I've been doing this for years now, and I'm really excited about it. To me, it's amazing to look into the eyes of a kid that has overcome a lot of adversity, or who is even in the middle of adversity, but uses their creative ability to escape, even if it's just for a few hours."
On top of that, Price continued, "I just love to be around real talent, and there are times when these kids have amazing raw talent, but don't know it yet and don't fully understand what they have."
"Orphan Blues: The Gospel Musical" is part of A Source of Joy Theatricals/Broadway in the Hood's 2010 season. However, Russell said arts funding cutbacks here have left the organization unsure about how and where it might stage its final two shows this year.
The group is looking for a venue, as well as donations that would help it to finish out the season.
In the meantime, there are this weekend's shows, which Russell hopes will "inspire and change lives."
Broadway in the Hood's past productions have included a few very theatrical productions, Russell noted.
But, for this one, the goal is not so much a show that's "written to be theatrically pleasing," he said, as it is "a show that will make you think about your life and how blessed you are."
Contact reporter John Przybys at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0280.