Wednesday, July 17, 2024
THE IDLE AMERICAN

Down from the Cross

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Randy Brooks, who portrayed Jesus in “The Promise” more than 6,000 times, is nearing the 60-year mark in Christian ministry. But he still has “the look” -- the kind that causes head-scratching when vaguely familiar faces are seen.

Randy was cast in the role in 1989, when the award-winning musical began its 34-year run at Glen Rose’s Texas Amphitheater. He later appeared for years in Branson, MO, at a New York City church and numerous performances internationally before he ended the role when COVID arrived in 2020.

Long-haired since the mid-1970s, he now is free to leave his gray hair au natural, unlike most performance years when it was dyed to hide premature graying. Had one of the founding producers of the Glen Rose production not spotted Randy in a hair salon in 1989, he might never have been featured in “The Promise.”

“Can you sing?” she asked. Having been a pianist/vocalist since junior high, he quickly answered, not knowing that the producer was looking for a blue-eyed, long-haired man to play Jesus. Then age 36, Randy--his commitment to God already strongly in place--signed on, the course of his life to be forever changed. He sang Word-produced songs such as “Closer than a Heartbeat,” “It is Written” and “Shalom.”

Randy says he writhed and winced with imaginary pain on the cross, but never came close to portraying Jesus’ actual suffering. He remembers the challenge of holding onto nails and contorting his body to a 45-degree angle. (On the cross for 20 minutes at each performance, his total time there amounted to 83 24-hour days).

Producers were never worried about his lacking both theological and theatrical training or changing his mannerisms. He sounded “way too southern,” however, so he underwent speech training to sound less so!

Throughout his career, Randy has been closely identified with gospel music, but he and his brother Bill also performed throughout the nation for corporate groups, including Amway and American Airlines. Randy also hooked up with the Stamps Quartet, which provided vocal back-up for Elvis Presley.

He also was music director on 58 episodes of TV’s “Country Crossroads,” and--with the Brooks Brothers Band--was named “Entertainer of the Year” in Texas for six consecutive years by the Johnnie High Country Music Revue Association, and twice honored in Branson as the “Male Entertainer of the Year.”

 

In 2020, Randy returned to Texas, where he continues to perform, largely at churches, retirement centers and at various other venues.

“My body told me it was time to slow down, so I have,” Randy said.

He feels that he has kept numerous providential appointments in his life, including a recent visit to Shipshewana, IN, where his brother Bill is emcee in the tiny Amish/Mennonite community’s two theaters.

With three shows left to perform, Randy was helping Bill move household furniture. A large mirror slipped, seriously cutting Randy’s right hand between his wrist and thumb. Fifteen stitches were needed to close the wound, but let’s not race ahead.

The nearest hospital was 12 miles away, so Bill took Randy to his doctor’s office. Blood gushing, Randy learned that it was the doctor’s day off.

Coming through the back door, however, was the doctor, who lives 20 miles away in Goshen.

“I had this strong feeling that I should come to the office,” he said.

Providence again, right?

 

Realizing that Randy had sustained a serious injury, the doctor initially suggested calling an ambulance to take him to a hospital. Then, he remembered treating numerous victims of roadway accidents during his Indianapolis internship.

He expertly completed the treatment. Randy, claimed to be “good as new,” performed the same evening and at the two closing shows the next day.

“I don’t solicit engagements, but enough still come to me,” particularly with Shiloh Road, a southern gospel quartet in the Metroplex. “I’ll serve the Lord until I can’t.”

Ever the “people person,” he now drives for UberEats between gigs. He hears numerous comments about his “Jesus look,” and smiles.

“God is good, now and forever,” he said. “With Him, I’m ready for whatever comes next.”

Amen.

 newbury@speakerdoc.com | 817-447-3872