Businessman and television personality Willie Robertson is best known for his wise-cracking ways on the hit TV series Duck Dynasty, yet in recent months, he's taken on a new role as producer of a Broadway-style Bible musical he says is so good that it made him cry.
That production, His Story: The Musical, debuted in Colony, Texas, this month, telling the story of Jesus within the framework of pop and hip-hop music. Robertson calls it a combination of Hamilton and The Chosen. Jeff Calhoun, who received Tony Awards for Newsies and Grease, directed it. It's playing all summer at the Broadway Tent, a state-of-the-art, 1,300-seat, 75,000-square-foot event center.
Robertson and his wife Korie became producers of His Story last year after it was already in motion.
"Willie literally listened to one song … and literally came to me with tears in his eyes," Korie Robertson told Christian Headlines.
That song was One Step at a Time.
"He was like, 'I don't even know what this is. But this is incredible.'"
The show's creator, Anna Miriam Brown, was a missionary kid who listened to Hamilton on the mission field of Kenya and was inspired to write a pop-style Bible musical.
"We feel like God's got something going on," Willie Robertson told Christian Headlines. "And we were just excited to be a part of it. I'm passionate about sharing the gospel. And when I watched it, I felt this voice inside just say, 'There's different ways to get this message out, especially to the younger generation today.'"
Korie Robertson said they had "chills and tears" after watching it.
"It does feel young and fresh and new," she said.
The Robertson's adult children, all in their 20s and 30s, also approved it.
"That was another stamp of approval for us – like, if our kids are into it [then] alright, we've got something here. … It [has] beautiful artistry, just incredible choreography [and] music [and] talent."
Brown, the creator, "wove" the gospel stories into the production, Korie Robertson added.
"You hear Scripture all the way through in the lyrics," she said.
Despite the theater's name (the "Broadway Tent"), it's state of the art, Willie Robertson said.
"It's air-conditioned. It has carpet. It's nice. You don't feel like you're in a tent," he said, laughing. "The cool thing with the tent is that the roof of the tent or the ceiling, if you will, is also a screen and so there's projections. And so it's almost like a planetarium. And so we can change the environment and the mood with the lighting."
Willie Robertson said the "sky's the limit" in how big the production can grow in its worldwide reach.
"It could go all across the world, which that's our hope," he said.
For now, though, fans of musicals will need to make the journey to Colony, Texas.
"We're making that call to believers to show up," he said. "... You'll be blown away, I promise."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Brad Barket/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.