Holiday Tradition Continues
Popular Black Rep production starts tomorrow
The North Carolina Black Repertory Company is gearing up to open its most popular show of the season.
Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity,” which the company has produced annually for the past 13 years, will open tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 6) at the Arts Council Theatre.
“It is our most popular show because it’s fresh every year,” said Wende Walker, audience development manager for the Black Rep. “The choreography and music is what keeps people coming back.”
The exuberant production fuses elements of gospel and traditional African music and and showcases an array of costumes and choreography, said Artistic Director Mabel Robinson.
“The gospel music sounds and the African beats and the colorful costumes and the movement and all the voices, all add each of their spark,” noted Robinson, who directs the holiday production. “All the elements that come together make it so exciting.”
The show, which regularly sells out, draws audiences from across the state and beyond, Walker said.
“It is one of the most dynamic performances that we do as a company,” she said. “By word of mouth, we have people coming from Virginia and South Carolina to see these performances, and they come year after year.”
A new cast of characters comes to the production each year, as some cast members have moved on to performing at other venues and new talent comes into the fold, and the ever changing choreography and musical selections make the production unique each year, Robinson said.
“We continue to try to find things that are going to keep it sparkling and up tempo and connecting with people emotionally,” she remarked. “…We’re constantly seeing how we need to keep it fresh, and being creative people, you certainly want to always continue to let the creative juices flow.”
The show holds special meaning for Robinson; she appeared as Mary in the Broadway production in 1963. Kennethia Mason will return to her role as Mary this year, opposite Wayne Jones, who will again portray Joseph. This year’s production also features a host of young faces, with a half dozen cast members hailing from the Black Rep’s Teen Theatre program. Statesville native Tony Gillion will return for his ninth season as the production’s music director.
“It’s about the birth of Christ, and it’s so rewarding to be able to play a major part in it,” said Gillion, who serves as music director at two churches in his hometown. “I just enjoy music, period, and to be able to help people understand the big picture, it means a lot to me.”
The production’s cast and crew have been working six days a week to perfect the show in anticipation of opening day tomorrow.
“The audience adds the last touch, the response to what we’ve done,” Robinson said. “As long as we connect with the audience and the audience enjoys it, we come away with something of value and we are happy.”
Gillion says the production is continually improving.
“Everything about this show is so spectacular,” he remarked. “…It’s getting better year after year.”
When it comes to entertainment, “Black Nativity” has something for everyone. It’s a time honored holiday tradition that promises not to disappoint, Robinson said.
“If you get there, you will be entertained. You will laugh and you will shout and you’ll just have a good time,” she declared. “Come out and really celebrate Christmas the way it should be celebrated.”
The Black Nativity will be held December 6, 7, 13 & 14 at 8:00 p.m. and December 7, 8, 14 & 15 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $24 for adults, $20 for seniors and students and $15 for children 12 and under. 3 p.m. shows on Dec. 7 and 14 will be offered at a discounted rate of $15 per person. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 336-723-2266 or visit www.ncblackrep.org.
More images from Tuesday’s rehearsal here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.683183645047174.1073741860.355902327775309&type=1&l=3dd2a1386e