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Central Baptist College Announces Original Musical for March 2019

February 18, 2019

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A first at Central Baptist College will take place in the Spring 2019 semester. For the first time in history, an original musical will be performed, not just on the CBC campus, but by the CBC Fine Arts Department. The brainchild of Jim Turner, Dr. Jana Jones and Suzanne Banister, Ugs: The Musical will be performed on campus in March and will be debuted at the Christian Theater Festival that same month at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. Preparations for the show have already begun. Normally I will go to a company out of New York to get an idea for our yearly musical, said Banister. 

This year, Jim [Turner] approached me about composing the music for an original musical. So we wrote something completely original and we are excited about it and the students are as well. The musical was Jim's idea, said Jones. He contacted Suzanne and told her he wanted to do a musical based on one of the little golden books. We had a meeting and we weren't really sure which golden book we wanted to do at first. He said, The Ugly Duckling and I replied, That's it! So we went over to the library and found it. 

The story is based off The Ugly Duckling, a literary fairy tale written by Hans Christian Anderson in 1844. In the story, one of the baby ducks that is born is perceived to be different or uglier than all the rest. He sets off on a journey to discover who he is by joining a flock of swans, who accept him and make him part of their family. 

The idea came about and we started working on everything in April [2018], according to Turner. Jana had her part (writing) done first. Jones said It took me about three Saturdays to write the entire script. I thought about it all the time, but the actual writing bit took about three weeks. This version of the play is about a swan who was born, thinking he is a duck. He is so completely different that he can't fit in anywhere. He doesn't find a place in the world because he was raised with people who are completely different from him. The swan then wanders off into a barn yard where he thinks he can find a family. They, too, reject him before the swan family, who lost the ugly duckling years ago, comes back to find him. The uncle of Ugs, the main character, serves as the Christ figure as he goes out to find the lost one. In the ugly duckling's lowest moment, as in the actual story, they talk about suicide. Ugs contemplates this until his uncle, Steven, finds him and brings him home. He realizes then that he fits in and has a purpose because of what Steven has told him. 

When asked about how long the composition took, Turner responded: Some of the melodies are things that I have had for 20 years. I had an idea for an overture from one of these melodies that I thought would fit really well with this being a pastoral scene and a farm scene and I thought this music would carry over well in every scene. I wrote six of those songs for the musical in about six weeks. I composed the music and recorded the words from Jana's story and Christine Harris wrote the lyrics for us, based off the script given to her. What inspired these three was not getting caught up in all the academic things and using their musical gifts. 

In the academic world, sometimes you get caught up in all the academic stuff and you don't get the meat of your degree. Jim said he wanted to compose more because he works with them all the time. I think that was the burn in him was to get the talent that he has out. He asked if I would write for him and, with my experience writing comedy for Silver Dollar City, it was a great fit, added Jones (Jim)'s music is better than any Disney person, according to my husband, quipped Jones. The play is funny and the music touches the hearts. His music will make people cry. Our idea was to draw people in, with the ministry that's in the play, make them laugh and then get the music to touch their hearts. 

The reason I wanted to do something original, added Turner, is because bigger schools have their niche. I thought, why not do something that's original, that's never been done before, when we have the resources. Why not try to put CBC on the map in other areas? The performance at Howard Payne will take place either March 4 or 5. The players will then return to the CBC campus and perform the production over a two-day period on March 8 & 9. 

Performances will begin at 7:00pm on both nights in the Burgess Auditorium in the Cooper Educational Complex. All performances are open to the public. Admission is $5.00 per person and is free with a Central Baptist College student or employee ID. 

The overall production involved the hard work of 28 people. Jones and Turner hope that the play gets published so that schools and church groups will want to produce it. I know a couple of churches that want to do it already, said Jones. Jim Turner is the composer of the music, Dr. Jana Jones is the writer and Suzanne Banister is the producer and her classes are responsible for the set, which will travel with the group. The set is the same set we used last year in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, according to Banister, who also added that the set was built by one of the student's fathers. We couldn't do it without all the hard work of everyone involved, added Turner. From Jana, to myself, to our producer Suzanne, it takes a lot of hard work to get something like this done. We are excited to do it. 

If you would like to help donate funds to send the group to the Festival, you can give online at You can also give by check made payable to Central Baptist College. Include Ugs: The Musical on the memo line. Checks may be mailed to Central Baptist College, 1501 College Avenue, Conway, AR 72034. For more information about Ugs: The Musical or about a donation, contact Suzanne Banister either by email at or by phone at 501-205-4361.

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