John Newton on Broadway

Betsy Childs Howard | August 11, 2015


If you want to see a Broadway show this year, you can choose between one in which Mormon missionaries learn to blaspheme and one in which a Christian teenager has a relationship with a transgender adult. Or you can watch the earnest depiction of the life of John Newton, which has made its way to Broadway as the musical Amazing Grace. As one reviewer put it, these days it is far more culturally irreverent to promote religious faith than it is to mock it.

In telling the story of the British slave trader turned hymn writer, Amazing Grace the musical does not seek to be “safe and fun for the whole family” as so many faith-based dramas do. In addition to an appealing musical score, talented cast, and artful staging, the show is laced with gritty honesty. It tells the story of a man who lived for his own pleasure, untouched by the sufferings of others. It also tells the stories of Africans whose lives have been ruined by the slave trade.

Historical Liberties

The musical’s plot line takes more than a few liberties with history. Newton’s sweetheart Mary Catlett (who would later become his wife) is portrayed as an…


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