“A man after God’s own heart.” Imagine anyone being given that title. Only David, the shepherd boy turned king, has ever had such a distinction. The youngest of eight brothers, David had no choice but to be relegated to the fields to tend his father’s sheep. But, David didn’t complain and he didn’t shun his duties. Instead, as with most things in his life, he faced the responsibility with courage and daring. Not many could boast killing lions and bears to assure the safety of their flock. But, David was not average and he was not to be defeated or overcome.
Our story of King David chronicles the life of David from his humble beginnings as a shepherd--to popular King of Israel. The show opens with the coronation of David. Following this powerful opening number, “Canticle of the King,” David is confronted by his mother Keturah, the always influential and delightfully cantankerous family matriarch. She serves as comic relief and narrator throughout the story. Keturah teasingly scolds David for spending so much of his time working out final preparations for the return of the Ark of the Covenant. Worshiping God was something David learned to do as a young child. Later in the musical David reflects on those memories as he sings, “When as a child I heard Your voice, songs filled my heart and I rejoiced. The stars came alive and began to sing, the heavens broke forth; I heard melodies ring.” David’s delight in music, celebration, and worship were central to his life. His passionate personality did not always serve him well and he made his share of mistakes. But, David’s heart for worship stayed with him to the end.
Following the opening scene Keturah takes us back in time to David’s childhood as the prophet Samuel enters with Jessie, David’s disgruntled father. Samuel announces that God has spoken to him and that he has come to anoint the future king of Israel from among the sons of Jessie. Naturally everyone assumes it will be one of Jessie’s older, more “appropriate” offspring. One by one the boys are discounted until the prophet finally asks, “Is there another, perhaps you’ve overlooked?” David is brought from the fields and Samuel of course instantly recognizes David as the one chosen of God. A surprising thing then happens. Instead of ushered David straight to Jerusalem and crowning him king, David is sent back to the fields with only the promise in his heart that some day he will indeed become sovereign king over the land of Israel.
Back in the fields he is visited by his mother Keturah and sister Zeruiah. In this scene Keturah complains to David about having to walk so far each time she comes to visit him. Her feet hurt and she playfully teases David about not being able to find greener pastures closer to home. She and David sing a beautiful duet based on Psalm 23 called, “A Shepherd’s Prayer.” David’s sister dances as they sing. It is one of the most poignant moments in the musical. Lovely, serine, and touching, this song captures the essence of David’s adoration for his family and his God.
It is not long, however, before David finds himself in the encampment of Saul’s army and facing Goliath. Goliath’s voice is prerecorded and all the actors respond to him as though he is standing off stage. The actor who spoke and sang the role of Goliath was excellent and the recording alleviates any problems with extensive makeup and costuming… (to say nothing of finding a nine foot tall man to play the role of Goliath)! David is best played by two actors in this musical. The young David “becomes a man” in the middle of the song, “Goliath’s Fall.” When David releases the stone from his slingshot the lights go black and the young David is replaced by the older David. When the lights come up David is seen standing behind a small set piece where the preset head of Goliath and a sword are concealed. Right on cue with the music, David picks up the sword, raises it over his head, and appears to lop Goliath’s head off. He then grabs the (of course prop) head and raises it in the air as the surrounding army of Israeli soldiers cheer him on. The scene ends as David convincingly and proudly sings, “Here and abroad, men will applaud…the living God! The God of Israel!”
The next scene opens with the joyful and rousing number, “Saul has Slain His Thousands (and David His Ten Thousands.)” The crowd is jubilant at David’s victory over Goliath, but Saul, seen standing in the shadows, is not. Saul’s jealousy toward David grows steadily from this point on and he becomes brash and unpredictable. For much of the rest of the story David is haunted by Saul’s distrust and hatred toward him. Saul becomes obsessed with capturing and killing David and their final confrontation late in the second act is heartrending. To add to the complexity of David’s relationship with Saul note that he is also married to Saul’s daughter Michal, and his best friend is Saul’s son, Jonathan. Sadly, Saul’s obsession with killing David forces the separation of David from both Michal and Jonathan. A disturbing moment occurs when the three of them, each in their own “world” cry out to God. They sing the trio titled, “I Don’t Understand” which sends chills down the spine when in the lyrics, at the most climactic point in the song, the three sing the simple word, “Why?”
David’s heart is broken again when his best friend Jonathan is killed in battle. The stirring and poignant song, “My Brother, My Friend” is reprised when David is told of Jonathan’s death. Both actors appear on stage as the song is sung, but of course Jonathan is just a “memory” in David’s mind as they sing, “My brother, my friend. United, yet divided. Steadfast, till we meet again. My brother!”
Serious as the subject of David’s life is, Gloria Emmerich has captured some wonderful humor throughout the musical. Several pair of “side-kick” characters play an important part in bringing the story to life. The final scene is the culmination of all David’s dreams. The Ark of the Covenant is returned to its rightful place in Jerusalem.
In the final triumphant scene David and the cast sing the magnificent, “Canticle of the King (Reprise).” "I’ll make Your praise magnificent, for You alone are worthy. Here in Your presence we’ll bring in the Ark, on our shoulders we’ll carry Your glory. We have the honor of bringing to pass the promise of Your Word. To let every man bring sacrifices of praise that have never been heard.” David, a man after God’s own heart. That must mean that at God’s very heart are music, praise, and worship. We owe a great debt to David, the sweet, sweet psalmist of Israel.
There is within each of us a “heart of worship.” It is well worth going back in time to glean what we can from this man, David. He didn’t always do it right, and he made many mistakes, but what he never forgot was the simple and blissful relationship he developed with God while as a child alone in the pastures watching his sheep. With each important decision David makes, one senses that he never looses touch with his roots. Because of his humble beginnings it is easy for all of us to relate to David. Shunned by his father and brothers, David was forced to become a self-made man. And remember, he rose from shepherd to king in one brief lifetime.
King David (Sweet Psalmist of Israel) is designed to rouse the worshiper in all of us. When Goliath is beheaded the audience rises and cheers, yet they weep for the broken relationships David has with his wife and best friend Jonathan. From beginning to end the audience is thoroughly entertained. They feel they’ve been let in on a secret. We all want to know how to reach God. Perhaps the answer is through the “Key of David.” Perhaps that is why this musical touches everyone the way it does. The story is told with power, clarity, and with perhaps some of the best music ever written for Christian theatre.
When performed in its entirety, King David (Sweet Psalmist of Israel) is about 2 hours long. The show can be cut back by trimming scenes and songs at the director’s discretion.
Cast of Characters
Jonathan* (Saul’s son)
Jesse (David’s Father)
Amos (Servant boy)
Keturah* (David’s mother)
Zeruiah* (David’s sister)
Michal* (Jonathan’s sister)
Hannah (Keturah’s servant)
Iscah (Can be male or female)
* Principle Character
THE USE OF A CHORUS
A chorus can, and if possible probably should, be incorporated into this musical. Due to stage size, the original professional productions used a limited chorus of just five or six. However, a chorus of virtually any size could be added to a number of the scenes throughout the musical. But, if your available acting pool is shallow, all the brothers, servants, etc., could easily “become” the chorus in the scenes that call for a crowd of people (i.e. opening, finale, Goliath battle, battle victory celebration, campfire scenes, etc.).
As a point of interest, (and so you know it is possible), in the world premier production of King David (Sweet Psalmist of Israel), both the young and the older David were played by the same actor. Though he was in his early 40s he was slender and had a youthful appearance. He was also clean shaven of course which was imperative to maintain the look necessary for a teenage David. He first wore a beard in the third scene of Act II and had plenty of time to glue on a crepe hair beard which was quickly applied with Spirit Gum. Thousands of people saw the performances and there was never a single comment regarding his dual role.
If you have more than enough people to fill all the roles it is not necessary to have any actors double roles. But, if you are short on actors you can also have smaller roles (such as the messenger and the various servants) played by actors who have supporting roles and who have time to change costumes and wigs between their scenes. Audiences are quite forgiving of actors playing dual roles especially when the actor makes a good effort to change characters and the costuming is appropriate.
Because there are several scenes which call for large group choreography it is desirable to even out the cast ratio if at all possible by adding as many female chorus members as your stage and talent pool will allow. A large number of actors moving in unison doing even simple steps is always a beautiful thing to behold. Don’t forget, even on Broadway the less nimble actors end up in the back row!
SET AND PROP REQUIREMENTS
As with all of our musicals, the sets can be very simple with only minimal scenery—leaving it up to the audience to “fill in the blanks.” Or, you can go all out and create sets that include a room outside the palace, several desert scenes, Keturah’s porch, a courtyard outside Jesse’s house, a banquet hall, etc. Minimal scenery is completely acceptable and is easily accomplished in this show by having a few wooden tables and chairs available, as well as several free standing trees ($29 at Wal-Mart), an easy to make rock or two, a fireplace, a few easy to make movable wall pieces, etc. There is also some very inexpensive “special effects” equipment you can purchase (fog machine for $69.00, a slow spinning light for the scene where David is lamenting the death of Jonathan that can be purchased for under $25, etc. These things add immeasurably to the visual aspects of the show and won’t destroy your budget. Even the Ark of the Covenant and the head of Goliath are quite simple to make. Instructions are included with your order. This information, and dozens of other production helps, are all found in the DIRECTOR’S NOTES which come free as part of the Musical Production Kit designed especially for this musical. Sample pictures of sets used in the original production of this, and many other Gloria Emmerich musicals, can be found by going to the photo gallery on this website.
Click on the link below to download a perusal script. This perusal excerpt is available to assist you in the play selection process.
Excerpts are not intended for performance or academic use. In any of these cases you will need to purchase the rights via our website or by phone.
A full perusal script of this show is available for purchase on the “Pricing” page.
Click on the links below to listen to songs from King David (Sweet Psalmist of Israel).