The Electronic Church Musical Scandal

“We’ll have to remove several inches of your colon.” 
“Well then, I’ll have a semi-colon”
Tammy Faye
“Like Disneyworld, but for good people.”
Jim Bakker on Heritage USA
Andrew Rannalls as Jim Bakker and Katie Brayben as Tammy Faye (Photo: Marc Brenner)

The wife of a disgraced, televangelist is an unusual subject for a musical but so was Eva Peron.  Put into the mix music by Elton John, Rupert Goold’s direction, the book by James Graham and the musical of Tammy Faye  has exceptional promise. It stars Katie Brayben, Olivier winning lead of Beautiful  the Carol King musical and Broadway star Andrew Rannells who was the first Elder Price in Book of Mormon

I had not previously heard of her, despite spending time in North Carolina but her life story is significant for her bravery in the 1980s in embracing gay men with HIV when fundamental Christians were condemning what they called the gay plague.  She said herself that when things were difficult for her, she had great backing from the Gays.

Statistics about the American Mid-West and South always stagger me when you see the percentage of people who read the Bible daily.  No wonder it is called the Bible Belt.  The musical opens with Tammy Faye (Katie Brayben) being told that she had cancer of the colon.  Apparently there are no women proctologists at that time in the USA.  The set is white and bright, a grid of blank, white framed television screens.  She is dressed in white and her death is imminent.

We flash back to the 1960s with her meeting the quiffed evangelist Billy Graham (Peter Caulfield).  Tammy Faye and her husband Jim Bakker (Andrew Rannells) had a television programme for children featuring puppets.  They later were on Pat Robertson (Nicholas Rowe)’s Christian channel, founded their own televangelist program until broadcaster Ted Turner (Nicholas Rowe) offered them their own channel for PTL, or Praise the Lord. 

Andrew Rannalls as Jim Bakker and Katie Brayben as Tammy Faye (Photo: Marc Brenner)

This PTL channel founded in 1974 espoused Christian values, Jim Bakker’s preaching, Tammy Faye’s singing, glitzy entertainment and home values.  Within a year the PTL Club was generating an annual income of $120 million.  In the musical this evangelical ministry is a blend of Gospel and Rock music with the congregation channelling jazz hands and the spirit moving them. 

People are fascinated by Tammy Faye’s beautiful singing voice and warm personality.  They reach out to touch her hands on the television screen.  “He’s Inside Me” is her song referring to God, of course!  The channel sells domestic goods, everything even underwear.

But there is criticism of the Bakkers from another jealous televangelist, Jerry Falwell (the magnificent Zubin Varla) who has coupled his ministry with a new morality and presidential candidate Ronald Regan.  They call the 1960s the “Devil’s Decade”. 

The founding of Heritage USA is launched in 1978.  $200 million of PTL funds are used to build this Christian retreat and theme park which at its height rivals Disneyland and Disneyworld in popularity. 

In October 1985 Tammy Faye invited Steve Pieters (Ashley Campbell with a magnificent singing voice) a young gay pastor who talked about having AIDS.  When most churches were brimming over with homophobia, this was a loving public act which won her admiration from the LGBT+ community.  Steve Pieters talked to Tammy Faye about the pain and hurt of his AIDS and the loss of friends and the comfort from religion.

Katie Brayben as Tammy Faye. Robyn Rose, Georgia Louise and Kelly Agbowu as her backing singers. (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Elton John’s music for Tammy Faye is tuneful and memorable of his 1970 soft rock hits.  At one point the television puppets, an alligator and Susie Moppett sing “Crocodile Rock” and you realise how much his music in this show fits that decade. 

Jim Bakker’s fall from grace brings charges of fraud, allegation of rape and acts of homosexuality.  Andrew Rannels is compelling as the disgraced and imprisoned pastor but as Tammy Faye, it is Katie Brayben’s outstanding singing numbers and her compassion for those suffering that wins you over.  Her marital betrayal suffering too is there, “ I feel like a torn dress you can’t mend.”  The song “Empty Hands” closes Act One. 

Act Two has Tammy Faye on her own.  There are scenes from the dramas at Heritage USA, for instance in the Heritage Theater, the actor playing Samson hating his short hair and the crucifix yielding Jesus dancer.   PTL is destroyed by scandal and Jerry Falwell takes over Heritage USA but doesn’t make it work.  I was impressed with Zubin Varla’s deep register singing voice. 

Tammy Faye was known for crying on television, her penultimate song is “If You Came to See Me Cry”.  The final scene goes back to the hospital where Heaven is getting ready for Tammy Faye in “See You in Heaven.”  

For a critical response can I recommend the witty 1991 video of Genesis singing “Jesus He Knows Me” which has a Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker lookalike alongside the dollar registers piling up.   

Andrew Rannalls as Jim Bakker and Katie Brayben as Tammy Faye (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Musical Numbers

Act One

PTL Prologue

Light of the World

If Only Love

PTL TV Theme

Open Hands/Right Kind of Faith

He’s Inside Me

Satellite of God

God’s House/Heritage USA

Empty Hands





Act Two

Prime Time

Run This Show

Right Kind of Faith (Reprise)

He Promised Me

Bring Me the Face of Tammy Bakker

God’s House (Reprise)

Look How Far We’ve Fallen

If You Came to See Me Cry

See You In Heaven


Production Notes

Tammy Faye

Music by Elton John

 Book by James Graham

Lyrics by Jake Shears

Directed by Rupert Goold



Andrew Rannells

Katie Brayben

Zubin Varla

Ashley Campbell

Peter Caulfield

Nicholas Rowe

Amy Booth-Steel

Colin Burnicle

Danny Collins

Fred Haig

Gemma Sutton

Georgia Louise

Katie Bradley

Kelly Agbowu

Martin Sarreal

Michael Kent

Richard Dempsey

Steve John Shepherd

Robyn Rose


Director:  Rupert Gooldl

Set Designer: Bunny Christie

Costume Designer: Katrina Lindsay

Choreographer: Lynne Page

Musical Supervisor, Arrangements

and Additional Music  : Tom Deering

Lighting Designer:  Neil Austin

Sound Designer: Bobby Aitken

Video Designer: Finn Ross

Orchestrations: Tom Deering and Mark Dickman

Musical Director: Alex Beetschen


Running Time: Two hours 50 minutes with an interval

Extended and Booking until 3rd December 2022 



Almeida Theatre 

Almeida Street

London N1 1TA

Phone: 020 7359 4404


Tube: The Angel

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge 

at the Almeida

at the evening performance 

on 27th October 2022