Marginalized as a soldier who went native while stationed overseas’ yet eyed for his control of a wealthy family’s estates, we encounter an un-daunted Cornelius bold in sharing the story of the man called the Christ—a remarkable Jewish teacher from Galilee crucified by the Romans 30 years earlier. Accounts from the Bible’s Book of Luke are highlighted as Cornelius commissions a scroll that lays out the birth, healings, teachings, death on a cross and resurrection of Jesus whom followers of his “Way” believe was the prophesied “Messiah.” In dramatic action and flashbacks to the Centurion’s days in Palestine, the original gospel message, a fledging early church movement that swept the world, and the challenge of faith comes to life without platitudes or smug answers.
The story follows a God fearing Cornelius; his ambitiously charming younger half brother Marcus; a young Christian orphan named Julia taken in by the family; their scheming servant Crispus; Publicus, a wily Senator of Rome who has pragmatic ideas; the celebrated slave-singer Carpasia ; and household Procurator Gaius, the faithful estates manager who loves the beautiful singer from afar. An other worldly narrator, TAL (The Angel of The Lord) introduces a thrilling angel chorus. And we meet history’s Seneca, the philosopher of Rome and his wife “Poppy” , as well as Priscilla, an early Church leader.
The Centurion The Musical is based on a real person as the Bible names him (Cornelius) though his remaining life story is otherwise lost to history. The story sensitively carries on with real history, proposing an intriguing possibility that scrupulously fits biblical and historical truth. Consistent with actual accounts of an early church at the tipping point of tolerance and climaxing with the burning of the city, Christians are rounded up and blamed for the great fire of Rome. Cornelius is given the opportunity to recant his belief in this strange singular God and in Jesus his Messiah, or face the consequences of refusing an Emperor set on stamping out the growing ranks of believers. Like 21st century counterparts, characters must come to terms with what to do about this “Jesus” story and a promised relationship with a sovereign God while confronting an ‘anything goes’ world at the crossroads. Audiences of all types can be inspired by the universal “seeker” theme that will affirm in praise the hope of faith and heaven.