NEW YORK — In addition to her gig on the fourth hour of the “Today” show, Kathy Lee Gifford also putting the finishing touches on the lyrics and book of a new Broadway musical.
It’s about the controversial 1920s-era Pentecostal evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson — a woman near and dear to Gifford’s heart, even if most people haven’t heard of her.
McPherson was a pioneer in radio evangelism who incorporated vaudeville elements in her sermons.
Though considered the P.T. Barnum of the pulpit, she also fed millions during the Great Depression. Her followers remained loyal even after a mysterious five-week disappearance in 1926 and three failed marriages. She died of a drug overdose in 1944.
McPherson became something of an obsession for Gifford, who read everything she could on the preacher. She visited her Los Angeles temple 50 times and interviewed McPherson’s children.
“Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson,” includes some 20 songs by David Friedman and David Pomeranz, and opens Nov. 15 at the Neil Simon Theatre.