Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas in the Owen

By Liz Rice, Education and Community Engagement Intern

With Christmas just a few weeks away, the sights, sounds, and spirits (both literal and theoretical) of the holiday have taken over the Goodman. A Christmas Carol is in full swing in the Albert Theatre, but the Dickensian classic isn’t the only holiday show up and running—on December 5, Congo Square Theatre Company opened their holiday show, an interpretation of the birth of Jesus, The Nativity, in the Owen. Adapted from Langston Hughes’ gospel musical, Black Nativity, The Nativity features not only gospel, but soul, blues and R & B music with extraordinary dance numbers by the cast and soloists Kathleen Purcell Turner (Mary) and Kevin Dirckson (Joseph), who execute the passion and emotion of Mary and Joseph through choreographed modern dance routines.

In the swift two-hour show, the angel Gabriel narrates the birth of Jesus Christ through the gospels of Luke and Matthew. The story begins as Mary is called on by the angel and told that she is the mother of the son of God, and follows her and her betrothed, Joseph, as they travel to Bethlehem and later Egypt. The set calls to mind the arid desert of Israel under Roman rule, and Congo Square mixes in aspects of traditional African culture into the story through tribal dance, costumes, and the use of a stool, a symbol of royalty power for the Ashanti people and other African cultures. Musical numbers like “God is Good” gracefully demonstrate these multicultural mixtures in the pretext of modern music.

The Nativity’s story may be over 2000 years old, but the production is young and fresh, enlivened with pop culture references and memorable and “soul”-ful performances. The Nativity runs through December 31; don’t miss it while it’s here!

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