Style: Broadway musical-style soundtrack

Top tracks: "Hold Me Now," "Unloved," "Life Is Sweet,"

What if neither son in the famous parable had it right all along? What if it was the father who was the wasteful one, squandering his extravagant love on his two lost and unseeing sons? That's the premise of Prodigal God, a musical created by CCM worship veteran Brian Doerksen and playwright Christopher Greco.

The two-disc, 23-song project is an eight-year labor of love for Doerksen and the soundtrack to a musical that doesn't exist—yet. But there's more planned: next year an audio script featuring select scenes and monologues and a complete script for theater companies; a film and concert tour in 10 years.

It's all ambitious, but the soundtrack lays a solid foundation. The music heavily outlines a compelling story that brings insightful, three-dimensional character development to the more basic parable in Luke 15. Doerksen plays the bitter, hyper-responsible yet jealous elder son. Worship pioneer Ron Kenoly's passionate bass brings weight to the father, especially notable on "Fragile Hope." Colin Janz delivers exuberance as the carefree, dreaming younger son. And the skillful storytelling features Marika as a slave girl who the younger brother falls in love with and tries to rescue.

The brothers trade some powerful lyrical dialogue, but the interplay of the reckless brother and the nomadic beauty provides the strongest musical exchanges. "Hold Me Now" is Act One's climactic love song, and "Unloved" compares her own lack of a father's love with the grim future of the child she now carries—the younger son's baby. The fate of the infant ultimately falls to the elder son and proves to be the key to unexpected healing.

Style varies widely, though most common is theatrical pop. But "Till We Return to Dust" rides aggressive guitars into the dark psyche of the elder brother's lament. And the fingerprints of world musician Boris Sichon skillfully paint the corners with an exotic Mid-Eastern soundscape. The vocals of the 20-member cast—including townsfolk, traders and refugees—are generally strong, and production is solid and even. However, "Who Needs a Plan" strays into cheesy '80s CCM synth pop. And the horns, tempo, and background chorus of "The New Wine" channel '80s Integrity/Hosanna worship, conjuring forced smiles in the most celebratory moment of the prodigal's return.

Theater fans and adventurous listeners willing to engage with the psychological epic will mine poignant insights. But the music overall is so rooted in its storyline that there's little that stands alone outside its original context.

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