Winn Dixie Will Preach

While you may have read the book or seen the movie Because of Winn Dixie, you haven’t seen the musical. No one has–except for a handful of fortunate souls who got to sit in on the dress rehearsal of this world premiere musical tonight at the Arkansas Rep.

The poster and flyer for the show would suggest it is a musical about a girl and her dog (sweet Julia Landfair is fabulous–as the girl, not the dog), but the show is really about brokenness and sin and healing and redemption. My husband says that I think every play/movie/song is about redemption, but this one really is.

In this story about a preacher’s kid, redemption is found not in church (though the depiction of the pastor putting up and taking down chairs is spot on), but on the front porch of perhaps the most broken woman in a town full of broken people. She has a tree full of bottles that she emptied in another life. She puts her sins in the bottles and hangs them from the tree so that she can let go of them.

I’ve already been thinking about how we could rig our sanctuary with sin-filled bottles hanging from the ceiling. Since one of our own is the guy who rigged them at The Rep, I bet we could figure it out.

As the story moves, you discover just how much pain each of the characters is carrying around, and while the musical deals with serious topics, it’s not sad. It’s actually very funny. As one of the characters says, “Sometimes things are just so sad, you have to laugh.”  And laugh I did–loudly, as usual. I figure if my outbursts didn’t rattle the Irish Wolfhound who plays Winn Dixie, nothing will.

If you have ever hurt, lost or been left by someone you love, you’ll feel a kinship with the characters in this tale. Though it is not a “Christmas” story, I think it is the perfect antidote for those who struggle through the holiday season. There is life after loss, after failure, after tragedy–and there’s singing, too. I laughed. I cried. I made mental notes about future sermon illustrations. The only disappointment is that the soundtrack is not yet available for download.


–Rev. Anne Russ


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