On A Hill Far Away is an Easter musical with a wonderful storyline that helps reveal both the humanity and divinity of Christ. The musical captures the hearts and thoughts of Jesus and his disciples, Peter, James and James’ brother, John. The script and music help peel back each disciple’s outer layer to reveal their vulnerabilities and true hearts. Other prominent characters in the show include Leora, the grateful woman Jesus healed when she touched the hem of his garment, Jara, Peter’s stern but loveable mother-in-law, and Mary Magdalene. These principal characters each have important stories to tell which make the final scenes of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus even more impactful.
In the opening scene, Jesus is found traveling with his disciples. The crowds begin to press in which concerns Peter, James and John. The woman “with an issue of blood” touches Jesus’ garment and is healed. Mary Magdalene then enters frightened for her life. Jesus confronts the angry mob and gets them to disburse by inviting the one among them who is blameless and without sin to “…cast the first stone.” Zaccheus, though this is his only appearance in the show, makes an impressive impact on the storyline by coming down out of a tree and confessing his sins and declaring his allegiance to Jesus. The scene ends with the onstage characters singing a rousing song revealing their “unspeakable joy” at meeting and knowing the Master. Each one of them with their individual needs reminds us that “everybody has a different story.”
The opening is followed by a scene in the home of Leora who is hosting Jesus and his entourage. Mary, Jara and Leora are jesting about the men’s lack of fishing skills and Peter’s adventure walking out on the water. When the men enter Peter gathers that he has been made fun of and becomes agitated with James and John, the ones Jesus refers to as “the sons of thunder.” Jesus is able to turn the conversation around and uses the opportunity to explain to everyone that all people are equal in God’s eyes and that the things people deem as great may not necessarily be great to God. James and John reveal a flaw in their characters by asking Jesus to be seated at his right hand when they reach His kingdom. Jesus gently reminds them of the great responsibility that will be theirs if they choose to continue following Him.
As the scene progresses Jesus speaks about the judgmental and critical spirits of the men and several other flaws common to all people. The more Jesus talks the harder each of the characters listens. Jesus shares with them the importance of faith and “building their house upon the rock.” Jesus’ followers understand and with eagerness sing, “Teach Me, Lord” as they become anxious to know and learn everything they can about God and His Son and how they might better serve and know Him.
Next, Peter’s mother-in-law confronts Mary Magdalene regarding the difficulty she is having forgiving herself for the sins of her past. The dialogue in this scene is moving as Jara helps Mary understand the forgiveness the Savior offers if we ask Him and trust in Him. The haunting melody and stirring lyrics in “A Stone’s Throw Away” help us understand Mary’s heart as she sings, “My fate was just a stone’s throw away.” Finally, after each shares their story, Jara, Leora and Mary realize that in their own way, Jesus has cleansed their souls and made them all whole as they sing the beautiful trio, “Cleansed, Healed, Delivered.”
The story continues as Jesus teaches his disciples about trust, faith, charity and hope by sharing several parables with them. He warns them to be on their guard against false religious teachers and to be careful to walk on the straight and narrow path. The act ends with a beautiful song called, “Everlasting Life” which is based on John 3:16.
In the second act, Jesus teaches his followers to pray and prepares them for what is to come. He then goes with his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane where He agonizes in prayer and sings, “Father, Oh Father.” The scene ends when He is deserted by his disciples and betrayed by Judas.
One by one, the speaking cast then gives their account of what happened that night in Gethsemane. Their stories are heart-wrenching as the crucifixion is about to unfold. The cast sing, “The Lament” as the crucifixion takes place. (The director’s notes for this show explain how to actually portray the crucifixion in a tasteful way, that will leave your audience touched but not traumatized.)
Following the crucifixion, the principal characters each share their deepest emotions as they recount the women visiting the tomb, Jesus’ resurrection and the joy each felt as one by one they realized He had risen from the dead. The song, “My Risen Savior” is a remarkable and uplifting proclamation that Jesus is in fact, ALIVE!
Peter is left feeling guilty and dejected for denying Christ. He fears that there is nothing he can do to win back Jesus’ love and favor. When the resurrected Jesus appears to Peter and assures him that’s he is indeed forgiven, Peter is ecstatic.
The finale of the show is a musical tribute to the Savior. Jesus assures his disciples that he is indeed the resurrection and the life. The disciples assure the audience that, “He will do for you what He’s done for me!”
Gloria Emmerich, writer of On A Hill Far Away, firmly believes that the characters and stories in the bible are there to help us learn and grow in our Christian faith. Each character in the musical has a unique and distinct personality and was carefully selected and included so that audience members could see a glimpse of themselves through the lives of Peter, James, John, Leora, Jara and Mary Magdalene.
Thousands of people saw the original production of this musical and their comments often included these thoughts: “It felt so real.” “I never saw it that way before.” “I felt like I was right there with them.”
Theatre is a wonderful teaching tool. What better way to expose people to a risen Savior than to show them how Jesus related to real people and how He suffered, died and was resurrected so that we might have new life through Him.
Lamentations 3: 22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” The events in this musical took place on a hill very far away, but the story is as relevant today as it was for those who lived 2,000 years ago.
When performed in its entirety, On A Hill Far Away is about 1 hour and 45 minutes in length. The show may be greatly reduced in length by abbreviating the dialogue in some of the lengthier scenes at your discretion.
Cast of Characters
Jara (Peter’s mother-in-law)
Leora (the woman with the issue of blood)
* Peter and Zaccheus may be played by the same actor
Unlimited number of male and female chorus members.
THE USE OF A CHORUS
A chorus can be incorporated into this musical. As with many of our shows the original productions were performed on a limited stage. Subsequently, a chorus was not possible. However, a chorus of virtually any size could be added to several the scenes and songs throughout On A Hill Far Away. It is possible that “others” could come on and off stage at appropriate times to add to the choral sound. You could also add addition disciples to the various scenes. They could either just “be there” or you could give some of the lines (originally written for Peter, James or John) to whichever additional disciples you chose to write into the show.
As mentioned above you may feel free to add additional disciples to the cast. Strange as it might seem, audiences never commented following the original performances that there were only three disciples present (as the original script calls for). As the show was written for just Peter, John and James to physically appear as the disciples it all comes across as very natural. But the show has been performed with added characters and the audience seems fine with it either way. The scenes written for just women might be difficult to add additional females to, but multiple women could definitely be added to all the crowd scenes. Any scenes that take place outside could have townspeople added to them – including children. And, anytime an anthem is sung additional characters (chorus) could walk on to add vocal strength and general potency to the scene and song.
It is worth noting that in the original production the roles of both Peter and Zaccheus were both played by the same actor…he just had to make a fast costume change. But it was very doable. The roles could, of course, be played by separate men.
SET AND PROP REQUIREMENTS
As with all our musicals, the sets can be very simple with only minimal scenery. The set for On A Hill Far Away does not need to be complex. The set can be a simple as moving a few “period” chairs and tables on and off your stage depending on the needs of the scene. If you have the means you can have a more complex set of course but it is the story and songs that make for a successful musical. More 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 On A Hill Far Away.