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Black Nativity 

The choreography is ungainly, but the vocal pyrotechnics make the soul sing

Wednesday, Dec 7 2005
The theater has long been compared to organized religion; both the stage and the pulpit offer divine intervention in their own contrasting ways. But the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre's perennial holiday production literally turns the auditorium into a church. Based on poet/playwright Langston Hughes' 1961 "gospel song play" of the same title, Black Nativity mixes text from the Bible, snippets of Hughes' verse, and gospel hymns to recount the story of Jesus Christ's birth as told by members of a jubilant congregation. The production's formidable choir and soloists sing gospel standards such as "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and "Joy to the World" and newer songs (by, among others, principal artist and musical director Robin Hodge-Williams) with the sort of ecstatic fervor that makes even the most belligerent nonbelievers want to leap out of their seats and make a joyful noise unto the Lord. The show's choreography is a bit ungainly: Watching Mary go through 10 minutes of birth pangs in the middle of a particularly emotional hymn, for instance, is nothing short of embarrassing. Yet the vocal pyrotechnics -- particularly from blues diva Faye Carol and the angelic Merkell L. Williams -- make the soul sing. Still, you could probably enjoy a similar experience (without the annoying choreography) at Glide Memorial on any given Sunday for free.

About The Author

Chloe Veltman


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