By Roger Friedman
Showbiz 411, November 20, 2012
“Scandalous,” the musical co-written and labored over by Kathie Lee Gifford for a dozen years, is barely holding on. Despite bravura performances by Carolee Carmello and Roz Ryan, and mixed–not negative–reviews, “Scandalous” took in the least amount of money of any Broadway show last week–just $147,000, down considerably from the previous week. “Scandalous” tells the saga of Christian evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, who rose to fame in her live shows and on radio in the 1930s. She died in 1944 at age 54. The show takes a realistic look at her successes, failures, and complicated personal life.
But the funding of “Scandalous” is not typical. There are just four producers, and they are all connected to Christian or right wing organizations. The show is funded by the church that McPherson founded and has since turned into a giant money maker– the FourSquare Church of Santa Monica, California.
But the main backer of the musical is connected to Amway, the controversial direct marketing company from Michigan that is often accused of being a pyramid scheme and worse. Amway has been embroiled in many lawsuits, such as the one where they had to pay Procter and Gamble damages for telling people they were a Satanic organization. (Fans of “As the World Turns” may feel that way, but that’s another story.)
Amway was founded by by Richard Devos and his wife Helen. Now Devos’s son Dick and his wife Betsy are the backers of “Scandalous.” The arch conservative couple’s interest in Broadway and Gifford has not gone unnoticed up in Michigan, where there’s been much blogging on the subject:
The Devos family is very, very wealthy thanks to Amway. Together, all the members of the family are involved in charitable funds with total assets of close to $300 million that back Christian causes. Lately, the Devos’s have been donating big amounts to arts causes and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC– hoping to spread the Christian message.
Another website has noted that the right wing Christian values are very much behind Aimee Semple McPherson coming to Broadway. It’s funny, too, because Gifford’s idea is a good one. And her presentation of McPherson is pretty even handed. But it’s been noted that FourSquare Church, which McPherson founded in 1923 has money in the show, has changed a lot since then.
Jeff Smith of the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Accuracy writes:
“Foursquare Church continues to promote hyper-conservative religious values such as anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage and the dominance of Christian values in public life. Former Foursquare pastor Jack Hayford, now the head of Kings College and Seminary, embraces Dominion theology, a theology that believes that religious doctrines should govern civic life. Essentially, those who embrace Dominion theology in the US would like to replace the US system of laws with the 10 Commandments. Hayford and other Foursquare leaders have also been involved with the patriarchal Christian movement known as the Promise Keepers.”
Indeed, the average Broadway theatergoer might be surprised if they actually read the website at www.foursquare.org.
The question now is whether the Devos’s, Amway, and Foursquare–all with deep pockets–will keep “Scandalous” going to see if it can find its own flock.