Summerville-based husband-and-wife team Chuck and Karen Smith explore the biblical story of David and go “beyond the lion’s den” in their captivating new musical.
“We’re a couple of people with a vision, and we want to spread the word of Daniel,” Karen Smith said.
Directed by Brad Moranz, Daniel and the Kings plays at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center (PAC) Sept. 21 through Sept. 24 with awe-inspiring music and masterful performances.
Moranz is a Charleston-based performer, director and choreographer with more than 50 years of experience on and off Broadway. Abdiel Iriarte, a classically trained pianist and music director at South of Broadway Theatre Company in North Charleston, will orchestrate the musical, and Charleston native Matt Shingledecker will lead the cast as Daniel.
The musical opens with a young Daniel and his friends as they’re taken from home and put into bondage. Daniel leads his friends through hardship, never straying away from faith in God despite dire circumstances. Daniel rises through the ranks, changes the minds of kings and doesn’t allow those plotting against him to take over or shake his conviction. It’s a story about leadership and standing up for what you believe in.
“Daniel is not the action,” Chuck Smith said. “Everyone else who plots against him are the people in our story who are the action characters. The kings, the wizards and the queen are those who create the action, turmoil and activity, and Daniel’s response to it is always calm, with conviction, faith and strength.
“The takeaway here is that we’re going to face turmoil. We’re all going to be in the middle of a hurricane,” he added. “In order to persevere and survive, you have to maintain your conviction and faith.”
Developing the show
This production was a long time coming for the Smiths. Karen Smith dreamed up the idea for Daniel and the Kings in 2008. The first performance of the show, then known simply as Daniel was shown at Brunswick Church in New York in March 2010, receiving praise from audiences.
The Smiths were encouraged to grow Daniel, and over time, the show kept getting bigger.
However, the final push to take it to the North Charleston PAC stage was ultimately an unexpected twist of fate. Karen Smith was involved in a car accident in October 2021 that nearly killed her and left her in the intensive care unit for three weeks.
“I’m half titanium, and by the grace of God, I survived,” she said. “We said, ‘You know what? You don’t have tomorrow, so we don’t have time to launch this as a little community thing.’”
The Smiths began discussion with the North Charleston PAC in February 2022, officially signing a contract for the performance weeks later.
“Brad Moranz said yes to helping us direct,” Karen Smith said. “We have Abdiel Iriarte, who is a gift from God. He’s an incredible orchestrator/musician who took our music we’d written to this level that’s like Disney. Wait till you hear this stuff — you’re going to be blown away.”
Chuck Smith said with time and the help of Moranz, Moranz’s wife Jenny Moranz, and Iriarte, the script and music were rewritten significantly as Daniel became Daniel and the Kings.
Building an excellent cast was a priority for both the Smiths and Moranz to bring the story to life.
“In my opinion, casting a show is probably the most important thing you can do,” Brad Moranz said. “So when [the Smiths] asked me about directing it, I said, ‘Well, it’s going to be very important that we cast it really well, and by that I mean hire the best people that we can, wherever they come from.’”
With that in mind, they set out to assemble the most outstanding cast possible.
“I feel artistically fulfilled as a performer in this room because I’m surrounded by people who are so talented but also respect what everyone brings [forth],” said Maddie Casto, a local actor who portrays an evil wizard in the show.
Casto has acted all over the country but said she feels incredibly grateful to be part of a production of this scale in Charleston.
“Myself and the other two gentlemen who are portraying the wizards — we’re constantly pinching ourselves that we get to be a part of this,” Casto said. “What [the Smiths] are doing, and the opportunities that [they’re] giving Charleston performers, whether it be someone like me who will be onstage, musicians in the pit, kids who are in college, is huge and does not happen in Charleston.”
With beautiful original music and an impressive mix of Broadway, off-Broadway and local performers making up the cast, Daniel and the Kings is sure to be an awe-inspiring show.
Love Best of Charleston?
Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)