Peter was one of Jesus’ closest disciples. And, when Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replied. “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” But, when the pressure was really on – Peter failed miserably. He did exactly what Jesus said he would do… Peter denied ever knowing Jesus. How could Peter live with himself knowing what he had done? Jesus was taken away, tortured, hung on a cross to die, buried, and ultimately, resurrected… How was Peter ever going to live with the terrible memory of what he had done?
The story begins with the unsettling reenactment of Peter’s denial. It all happened—just as Jesus said it would. Peter watches as Jesus is arrested and drug off by a Roman soldier. And what did Peter do? Nothing! In his mind Peter then replays bits and pieces of the conversations he had with Jesus: “Come follow me.” “Who do you say that I am?” “Upon this rock I will build my church.” “I will give you the keys to the kingdom.” “What? Could you not watch with me but one hour?” “Oh, you of little faith… One of you will betray me… One of you will betray me…” How those words must have stung as Peter heard them ringing over and over again in his mind.
After Jesus’ death, Peter and the other disciples waited in seclusion. Jesus had been crucified. Jesus was dead. Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Yes, Jesus tried to make his disciples understand but they could not comprehend what he was saying. So… they waited.
Suddenly, unannounced, Mary Magdalene bursts into the room. “He’s gone!” she shouts. “The tomb is empty! Just like He told us!” Peter remains silent. The other disciples question Mary, trying desperately to believe, but still doubting her in their hearts. “I tell you it’s true!! Joanna was there too. And Jesus’ own mother! They saw and heard everything too.” At last, Peter runs from the room as he mutters: “I’ll believe it when I see for myself!” What a surprise when he and John reached the tomb. It was empty. Jesus was not there. John yells. “He has risen! Just as He said.” They return to tell the others and the excitement in the room is electric. As the disciples run out into the streets to tell their friends the good news, Peter lags behind. He is tormented by his denial and disbelief. Jesus is alive. It all makes sense now. But how can Peter ever face his friend and Savior again?
Of course Peter does face Jesus. Their encounter is powerful and Jesus makes it so easy. What a lesson for all of us. Perhaps we make receiving Christ hard? Jesus makes it quite simple. We just need to fold ourselves into His arms. Peter finally did—and he was never the same again. It took this crisis in his life to make him realize that nothing was more important than to live in the light of the Word. Peter never again looked back.
The story of “Simon Peter” takes us on a wonderful journey of faith and courage. Peter’s wife Anna is a delightful and central figure in the story. It’s the story of a simple man who lived a life of epic proportions. In fact, the running joke in Peter’s house was, “I wonder what kind of fish Anna will prepare today?” The disciples ate often with Peter and Anna and they all learned early not to joke with Anna about her cooking.
Anna’s mother Jara is another amusing character in the musical. Her wit, persistence, and tenacity go a long way to help keep Peter and Anna on the right path.
James, Andrew, Thomas, and John are Peter’s close friends. There is a great camaraderie between them which plays well throughout the script. They were, in many ways, the nucleus of the budding new church and were part of Jesus’ inner circle. Unqualified as they might have been — Jesus clearly had more faith in them than they had in themselves.
Jesus final meeting with his disciples was powerful. The men had been up all night fishing and had not caught anything. As the men grumble they hear a voice in the distance encouraging them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. At first they don’t recognize the voice and scoff at the command. But, Peter finally listens and tells his friends to do as the man says. Of course the outcome was ‘fish in abundance’ and Peter was so excited when he realized who was standing on the embankment he jumped in the lake, clothes and all, and swam to shore. The following scene is their last with Jesus. Peter is forgiven and Jesus sends the disciples to Jerusalem with these words: “So go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all the things that I’ve commanded you… I love you.” With this final exhortation the men are off… ready to set the world ablaze for Christ.
Later, when Peter receives the revelation from heaven regarding what food is acceptable to eat and what is not, a comical and clever song called “Fowl Play” helps explain the revelation. This lighter moment also softens the impact of what is about to occur in the story.
Of course there are multiple tribulations for Peter and his companions. The loveable James is taken prisoner and martyred for his faith late in the second act. Though accused of being a heretic James openly witnesses to his guard in prison. The guard accepts Jesus as Lord and is later executed together with James because of his new-found faith. Soon after, Peter is also jailed but soon escapes and explains it to his family and friends this way: “An angel of God appeared in my cell, woke me up, and we just walked out.” Unfortunately Peter’s freedom is short lived. He and Anna, after a brief time on the run, are captured and sentenced to death. The parting scene between Peter and Anna is one of the most gripping in Christian theatre. As the music swells and segues into a reprise of “The Master Has Risen” Peter’s final speech finishes: “Tell others of the night and day difference He’s made for you. How He’s changed you from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted, from dead to alive in Jesus Christ! He is risen! Remember the Lord!”
Peter is one of the great heroes of the faith. Simon Peter - Fisher of Men captures the essence of what made Peter great. Like all of us, he made plenty of mistakes. But, unlike many, Peter learned great lessons from those mistakes and forged through life boldly and unafraid. The audience loves a hero and Peter is right at the top of everyone’s list. Men and women alike relate to Peter and his wife Anna. Both had a tough exterior but were passionately in love with each other and with the Master. When Peter is torn with the decision of whether to leave Anna behind as he travels, or, to take her with him and endanger her life, the beautiful love song they sing together is proof that two people in love can work anything out if they just try. That song is appropriately titled, “I Belong by Your Side.”
Perhaps the most wonderful thing about this musical is that it teaches us that no matter what problems we face, the price paid by those heroes of the faith who have gone before us was far greater than what most of will ever encounter today.
When performed in its entirety, Simon Peter - Fisher of Men is about 2 hours and 15 minutes long. The show can of course be cut back by trimming scenes and songs at the director’s discretion.
Cast of Characters
Simon the Tanner
* Principle Character
THE USE OF A CHORUS
A chorus can easily be incorporated into this musical. Due to stage size, the original professional production used a limited chorus of just three or four. However, a chorus of virtually any size could be added to a number of the scenes throughout the musical. Those scenes include the “Fisher of Men” scenes, the house scenes where the disciples are gathered together, the final scene with Jesus, the Upper Room scene, finale, etc.
If your available acting pool is shallow, many of the smaller roles (i.e. guards, Simon the Tanner, Apollo, soldiers, etc.) could be played by a few actors taking on multiple roles. In fact, in the original professional production, the actor playing Thomas was also the Beggar. And, in some productions the roles of Andrew and James have been combined. James becomes the named character taking on Andrew’s lines and Andrew, and any references to him, are simply eliminated. Thousands of people saw the premier performances of Simon Peter — Fisher of Men and there was never a single comment regarding any actor playing multiple roles.
The key is to be sure actors playing multiple roles have adequate 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 character and the costuming is appropriate. Also, actors who are given multiple roles are more likely to stay deeply involved in the tedium of rehearsals and performances because they are simply busier and have more stage time. Actors who only have a few lines should always be tucked into the chorus when possible to “fill out” the stage.
Only the song “Out of the Darkness” from this show requires choreography. It is not completely necessary to have an even number of males and females in the show but it does make sense to ‘balance’ the cast as much as your 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 using 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 cross and Calvary, a courtyard where Peter’s denial takes place, Peter’s home, a prison, a campfire setting, a boat, the Upper Room, 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. 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.