Churchgoers working in the movie industry brought the excitement of the Academy Awards into Westminster Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning, with an Oscar-themed service featuring song, dance and comedy.
Actors wore makeup and costumes while portraying movie characters like the Joker, from “The Dark Knight,” former President Nixon, from “Frost/Nixon,” and Harvey Milk, from “Milk,” while onlookers laughed and sang along as performers belted out adaptations of famous Hollywood songs during the Broadway-style show.
Congregants who also work as industry professionals manned a sound-mixing board and played live music from the stage of the small sanctuary, which was fitted with theater-grade equipment.
“We pull no stops for the lord,” said Tom Amelotte, who works at sound-mixing company SSI and was managing the sound system.
The church’s seventh annual “Oscar Extravaganza” was an effort to engage the audience with a fun topic — Sunday’s 81st Academy Awards — that was on many visitors’ minds, while also emphasizing the importance of God over the award recognition that some congregants had received and others were still searching for, members said.
“Our response is to put this in perspective a little bit and to talk about the things that really are important,” Pastor Paul Clairville said.
But it was still important to celebrate the work of professionals in the film industry, which is something that many other churches look down upon, Clairville said.
“This is our town, and we want to celebrate what this town does,” he said.
At the same time, Clairville used the event to remind the community that awards are not the most important things in life, he said.
The goal was also to make church a fun experience for everyone, said Melissa Baldwin, who works as manager of rights and clearing at DreamWorks Animation in Glendale and was co-creator of the production with her husband, actor Greg Baldwin.
Greg Baldwin led more than 40 cast members through the half-hour spin-off of “The Wizard of Oz,” in which he dreamed that he had journeyed to Hollywood in pursuit of an Oscar.
Along the way he sang tributes to this year’s award-nominated films, including “Hooray for Bollywood,” a rendition of “Hooray for Hollywood,” in honor of best-picture nominee “Slumdog Millionaire.”
The performance ended with a song in honor of Jesus, before the congregation stood and sang along as the church’s garage band played a punk rock song about God that had attendees tapping their feet and bobbing their heads to the sounds of drums and electric guitars.
The overall atmosphere of celebration that the extravaganza created helped make the churchgoing experience relevant and enjoyable, Greg Baldwin said.
“I wish you saw more of this in church, because I think it’s what people need in church,” he said. “You want church to be fun.”