When Jeremiah Gamble was researching the Old Testament book of Esther for a play, he was struck by something in the narrative.
“The first thing that jumped out at him was that the king declared a holiday when Esther was crowned queen — that they would set aside a day to celebrate her. He found that so bizarre,” said Vanessa Gamble, his wife and frequent co-star. “His mind goes to that comedic place. And that was one of the first songs he wrote, ‘Esther Day’ instead of ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles.”
But the irreverence is underscored by serious spiritual themes.
“At the same time, it’s a great story, too,” Gamble said. “You can bring in God’s faithfulness and weave that redemption all the way through.”
The Gambles, who perform as the St. Paul-based Theater for the Thirsty, will present “A Kingdom Tale,” a musical comedy inspired by the Biblical story of the Jewish woman who becomes queen of Persia and saves her people from genocide. They will perform at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Salem Road Covenant Church as part of its 40th anniversary celebration.
“We were brainstorming to come up with a special activity that would be good for all ages, good for inviting friends and neighbors, and have some special significance in this anniversary year,” said Karen Danielson, a member of Salem Road’s 40th anniversary committee. “Inviting the Gambles fulfills all three.”
It will be a homecoming for Jeremiah Gamble, who grew up in Rochester, where his father worked for IBM. His family attended Salem Road Covenant Church before they moved to Longville, Minn., when his father became executive director of Lake Beauty Bible Camp.
“Being able to ask him to return as an adult and the founder of this theater is a wonderful way to acknowledge our past and the people who have been nurtured by our life together at Salem Road,” Danielson said. “Inviting pastors and former members back is great, but what a special opportunity to invite Jeremiah and his wife to come back and share their considerable talents with us.”
“A Kingdom Tale” has 11 songs and 16 characters, all by played by Jeremiah and Vanessa, interspersed in a fast-paced 75-minute production.
The Gambles, who most frequently perform together as a two-person theater company, have had a busy season, recently closing their passion play, similarly titled “Kingdom Undone,” a drama about the last days of Judas and Jesus. It was Theater for the Thirsty’s largest production, with 15 actors and four musicians.
They also recently ended a run of “Til’ Death,” a musical comedy about a couple in a marital midlife crisis forced to spend a weekend with young honeymooners. The show was popular and likely will return next season.
“We write and produce musical theater that has redemptive themes,” Gamble said. “It might be forgiveness, it might hope, it might be a story out of the Bible. It kind of depends, but it always has a redemptive theme threaded through the story.”
“A Kingdom Tale” is one of the Gambles’ enduring productions, dating back more than 10 years. They have a dozen original shows in their repertoire.
“I hope people come out, bring a friend, and enjoy themselves,” Gamble said.
If you go
What: “A Kingdom Tale”
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Salem Road Covenant Church, 3401 Salem Road SW, Rochester