Do Savannnah

God on Broadway returns to Savannah with sermons based on ‘Wicked,’ ‘Aladdin’ and more

  • The Rev. Billy Hester leads “Cats” during the 2016 God on Broadway series at Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church. (Provided photo)
  • “Hello, Dolly” was part of the 2016 God on Broadway series at Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church. (Provided photo)
  • “The Phantom of the Opera” was part of the 2016 God on Broadway series at Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church. (Provided photo)

God on Broadway returns to Savannah with sermons based on ‘Wicked,’ ‘Aladdin’ and more

26 Sep 2017

Time can creep up when you least expect it.

The Rev. Billy Hester, pastor of Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church, thought he had two weeks to prepare for the church’s annual God on Broadway series. Then he was informed it was just one.

“I think we’re ready, though,” Hester says. “We’re excited about what we’re doing this year. The series was tremendous last year. We had a wonderful response.

“I’m a little worried that people are still gathering from the storm,” he says. “It may take some momentum to get this series going, but I’m excited with what we have.”

Both Hester and his wife, Cheri, were professional actors who performed on and off Broadway. They use their talents and experience to produce God on Broadway, which has been presented since 2005.

The Asbury Memorial choir will perform selections from the musicals under the direction of Ray Ellis, Asbury’s minister of music.

“Each year the church looks forward to the month of October for this special approach to worshiping and celebrating God’s word and love,” Ellis says. “This year will be one of the best yet, and we hope the community will join us to experience these wonderful worship services.”

Held every Sunday in October, the God on Broadway worship services combine sermons with Broadway musical themes. Songs from the musicals are performed in celebration of God’s word.

This year’s series begins Oct. 1 with “Pippin,” the story of a young prince who longs to find passion and adventure in his life.

“That’s how my wife and I met, when I was in ‘Pippin,’” Hester says. “I was cast as ‘Pippin’ and Cheri played opposite me.

“I’m tempted to have photos of that production in the 1980s blown up for people to enjoy during our social hour. There’s so much in that story.”

On Oct. 8, “Carousel,” the tale of a charming carnival barker and mill worker who fall in love, will be presented. “Wicked,” the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz,” will be presented Oct. 15, with the story of “Aladdin” following on Oct. 22.

“’Carousel,’ we’ve done before,” Hester says. “’Wicked,’ we’ve done before, and it’s always a favorite.

“Cheri and one of our close friends, Jamie Kelso, will do the duet that the two witches do, ‘For Good,’” he says. “They’re talking about their friendship. ‘Aladdin’ is the new one we will be doing this year.”

The series will close Oct. 29 with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” In addition to presenting the sermon, Hester will make a special appearance as the Pharaoh. He is especially excited about the finale.

Colin Harrison, who is portraying Joseph, is “a young man who grew up in our church,” Hester says. “He was a voice major at Georgia Southern and he’s come home now to be the choral teacher at Coastal Middle School.”

Appearing as the narrator will be Hester’s oldest daughter, Chelsea.

“She was in graduate school in Boulder, Colo.,” he says. “They had a professional dinner theater there, and while she was in school, she did a couple of productions. They ended up doing a production of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ there.”

And the part of Pharaoh?

“It is yours truly doing that,” Hester says. “It’s a wonderful role. I’ve always wanted to do it.”

Every year, the series draws a large number of church members and visitors alike. Segments from past God on Broadway sermons can be seen online at

“We’re really going to end on a high note,” Hester says. “Come one, come all. We do have a lot of people who come out for this.

“Part of the reason we do this is to let people who don’t have a faith community and who were maybe turned off by church before experience church in a different way. We have a lot of people of different faith communities who come and have this experience with us.

“Some of them say they come to get their ‘Asbury fix,’” he says. “We’re glad to have everyone.”


What: God on Broadway

When: 11:15 a.m. every Sunday in October

Where: Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church, 1008 Henry St.

Cost: Free



Oct. 1, “Pippin”

Oct. 8, “Carousel”

Oct. 15, “Wicked”

Oct. 22, “Aladdin”

Oct. 29, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”