Musical Review: “Black Nativity” at Bishop Arts Theatre

Review by Nina G. (AKA Mo’ka from Mo’ka n Co’ka)

Photos by Tony Boyattia

It is the 15th anniversary of Bishop Arts Theatre to present “Black Nativity” by Langston Hughes and opening night was on Dec. 7. It has become a tradition at Bishop Arts Theatre and is a seasonal favorite within the community.

Although the longevity of the play, there is always a fresh take on the production. Each year it is slightly revised according to each new director’s vision of the 1961 classic. This year it is directed by Selmore Lorenzo Haines.

The play commences in darkness followed by the singing of a gospel song eventually opening to a scene within a church as members are there to rehearse for their annual Christmas play.

In charge is Dr. Narramor, a newly hired Fine Arts Director, and that does not sit well with some of the parishioners. Aside from dealing with the problems of being a newcomer to the church, she is also facing issues of being in an interracial marriage. She reflects this within the Christmas play and Joseph and Mary is an interracial couple as well.

Deacon Franklin is adamantly against all of this and demands Pastor Kelsey to fix it. Due to this, conflict arises between the Deacon and Pastor which unleashes unwarranted opinions and judgments about the situation within the church.

One particular scene that stands out to me was the intense scene between the Deacon and Mr. Narramor. Aside from being white, Mr. Narramor happens to be a policeman as well and the Deacon expresses his hatred for all policemen. He explains that his dad was extracted from his childhood due to an unfortunate incident dealing with the law.

The Deacon, as well as the naysayers, all come to a realization that living in misery is not the way. They cope with their differences and know that they must live according to God’s way, especially in the spirit of the holiday.

All ends well, and the Christmas play is a great success!

Traditional gospel songs, ballet, hip-hop dance, spoken word and even rap music accompanies as you are taken on a riveting journey of righteousness.

Jeffrey Berry with the ensemble

The cast’s acting was superb! They made me believe that these events were unraveling right before me.

Each cast member that had singing parts did an exemplary job. They dug deep down from within their soul and belted out such melodious tunes. The audience could not contain themselves and were moved to join in.

Even the band was on point and they played without a flaw. They were harmonious and it was a treat to our ears throughout the entire show.

“This version of Black Nativity at Bishop Arts Theatre was filled with much passion! It is truly a gift to all who see it!”

Cast:

Mr. Narramor………………………………Brandon Wilhelm*

Dr. Narramor………………………………….Myiesha J. Duff

Pastor Kelsey………………………….……Malcom L. Hudson

Deacon Franklin…………………………………Jamell Turner

Deacon’s Wife……………………………………Deontay Roaf

Joseph / Ensemble………………………………Durant Searcy

Mary / Ensemble…………………………………Lizzie Combs

Brother JR / Ensemble……………………………J.R. Bradford

Brother Chambers/Ensemble………………Anthony Chambers

Sister Wells / Ensemble…………………………Natasha Wells

Sister Wilson / Ensemble………………………Sharon Wilson

Sister Smith / Angel / Ensemble…………….L. Shaneen Smith

Sister Hubbard / Ensemble………………Doris Black-Hubbard

Sister Bethany / Ensemble……………………Betheny Sargent

Sister LaTonya / Ensemble…………………..LaTonya Reagor

Brother Williams / Ensemble………………Nicholas Williams

Son / Shepherd / Ensemble………………….Tony Washington

Xzaire / Shepherd / Ensemble…..…………….Xzaire Florence

Jeffrey / Shepherd / Ensemble……….…………..Jeffrey Berry