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Black Nativity

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ENTERTAINMENT
November 24, 2000 | By Clifford A. Ridley, INQUIRER THEATER CRITIC
Silhouetted against a glowing red wall, a lone actor describes a circle of life on the stage floor. The sounds of jungle animals intrude, followed by an insistent drumbeat that summons a crowd garbed in stunningly colorful costumes. "In the beginning . . . ," intones the actor, and the show is under way, using the Genesis stories of various cultures to introduce the familiar narrative of the birth of Jesus. It is Black Nativity, Freedom Repertory Theatre's annual holiday musical, which at last has settled into a permanent home.
NEWS
December 12, 1997 | by Renee Lucas Wayne, Daily News Staff Writer
BLACK NATIVITY. Zellerbach Theater, Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut St. Dec. 17-Jan. 4. Tickets: $27-$36. Info: 215-978-TIXS. It's Walter Dallas' turn. At the helm of Freedom Theater's holiday perennial "Black Nativity," the company's artistic director is staging the production in a whole new venue - the Zellberbach Theater of the Annenberg Center. But a bigger house, more elaborate set, special-effects lighting and new costumes aren't the only improvements in this African-inspired retelling of the birth of Christ.
NEWS
December 12, 1995 | by Renee Lucas Wayne, Daily News Theater Critic
The second coming of Freedom Repertory Theatre's 1994 hit gospel musical "Black Nativity" - which opened last Friday at the Arts Bank - was for the most part a glorious occasion, worthy to be praised. Written by renowned poet and playwright Langston Hughes in 1960, the production filters the traditional nativity story through the roots of African culture, setting the birth of Christ not in Bethlehem, but in a Yoruba village. The first act plays out a wonderful correlation between common points of the biblical nativity story, with its Semitic village cultural life, and Ifa (the Yoruban religion)
ENTERTAINMENT
November 27, 2013 | BY GARY THOMPSON, Daily News Staff Writer thompsg@phillynews.com, 215-854-5992
THERE'S a character in "Black Nativity" named Langston, but that's about all this movie has in common with the Langston Hughes gospel stage musical of the same name. Writer-director Kasi Lemmons ("Eve's Bayou") has made significant and interesting changes in the story and the music - in her updated version, a struggling single mom (Jennifer Hudson) sends her son (Jacob Latimore) to spend Christmas with his grandparents (Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett) in Harlem. Lemmons has repurposed some old songs and commissioned some new songs (by Raphael Saadiq)
NEWS
December 5, 1996 | by Renee Lucas Wayne, Daily News Theater Critic
In 1961, African-American poet and playwright Langston Hughes challenged the sensibilities of Broadway with "Black Nativity," a gloriously Afrocentric retelling of the story of the birth of Christ. With gospel great Marion Williams as its star, the production won critical acclaim and, after its New York run, enjoyed successful European and stateside tours. Thirty-five years later, Freedom Repertory Theatre continues to expose audiences to this ground-breaking work with tonight's opening of the show at the Philadelphia Arts Bank.
ENTERTAINMENT
December 1, 2001 | By Desmond Ryan INQUIRER THEATER CRITIC
The Freedom Theatre's revamped production of Black Nativity makes its welcome seasonal return to a world that is, of course, itself much changed. Besides offering a vitality, exuberance and directness that serve as a bracing antidote to the canned carols blaring across the aisles in shopping malls, Black Nativity is at once a timely and timeless show. Since it bowed here in 1992, Black Nativity has swiftly and understandably established itself as an entrenched and favorite holiday tradition for many families.
ENTERTAINMENT
December 15, 1996 | By Kevin L. Carter, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Messiah, The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol are holiday traditions in two ways: Many of the same people, often families, come year after year to enjoy the music and dancing or participate in the singing. And the arts groups presenting these works depend on the money the holidays bring to their coffers. Walter Dallas, artistic director of Freedom Repertory Theatre, hopes and expects that some day soon, the group's performance of Black Nativity will achieve the same traditional status - as well as serve the same economic purpose.
NEWS
December 6, 2013 | By Carrie Rickey, For The Inquirer
When she was young, Kasi Lemmons ritually attended Langston Hughes' Black Nativity , a gospel version of the Christmas story, every December at the Tremont Temple overlooking Boston Common. She recalls, "It was my Nutcracker Suite . " "I remember the overwhelmed but joyous feeling it gave me," says the actress/director, now 52, mother of two by actor Vondie-Curtis Hall. "The music, the vivid colors, the pageantry - so soul-stirring. It put me in the holiday mood. " A few years back, the filmmaker of Eve's Bayou and Talk to Me met with producers about potential projects.
NEWS
November 25, 2003 | By Annette John-Hall INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Black Nativity is my Nutcracker, my unofficial kickoff to the holiday season. It ranks right up there with the Christmas-tree lighting at City Hall and watching the Eagles make the playoffs: Who can be depressed after seeing such a joyous extravaganza? This year, I worried that Black Nativity - the story of the birth of Christ told in song and dance, based on a play by Langston Hughes - would die in the mire of Freedom Theatre's financial turmoil of the last year. But in its ninth season, the production, conceived and directed by artistic director Walter Dallas and with top-notch choreography by Patricia Scott Hobbs, is as uplifting as ever.
ENTERTAINMENT
December 7, 1994 | By Julia M. Klein, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Black Nativity, presented by the Freedom Repertory Theatre, is billed as "a Christmas gospel drama by Langston Hughes," the great poet of the Harlem Renaissance. But it's hard to discern Hughes' talented hand in this energetic hash of a show: There's minimal prose dialogue and less poetry - just a series of religious songs, including many familiar hymns, carols and spirituals, strung together in two constrasting settings. The show begins in a generic African village, where the Biblical tale of Jesus' birth is retold, rather laboriously, through dance, movement, pantomime and song.
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NEWS
November 22, 2015 | By Wendy Rosenfield, For The Inquirer
It has been a while since I've seen Black Nativity , perhaps not since the last time Ozzie Jones directed it for Freedom Theater. Theatre Horizon's version of this Afrocentric holiday tradition is a joyful, noisy alternative to all those grim Dickensians and cynical elves. Written as a "gospel-song play" by the great Langston Hughes, it puts the Christ squarely back in Christmas, with a first act placing the manger in pre-diaspora Africa, and a second act in the present day. But there's so much latitude in its meager script and song choices that every production can be drastically different.
ENTERTAINMENT
November 18, 2015 | By Shaun Brady, For The Inquirer
Watching Ozzie Jones at work can feel more like a jam session than a theater rehearsal. Not just because of all the music that's such an integral part of Langston Hughes' Black Nativity , which Jones is directing at Theatre Horizon in Norristown, but because of the loose, improvisatory, collaborative feeling that abounds in his creative process. At a recent rehearsal, he was trying to shape the opening scene of Act One, an African-set retelling of the birth of Christ, though he often seemed like the least concerned person in the room, more genial party host than director.
NEWS
November 6, 2015 | Chuck Darrow, Daily News
Sometimes it's what you don't know that can lead to great success. Case in point: "A Christmas Story, The Musical," which on Tuesday has its local premiere at the Walnut Street Theatre, where it will be staged through Jan. 10. The show's score was written by Ardmore native Benj Pasek and his writing partner, Justin Paul , in 2010 when the two University of Michigan musical-theater majors were just 25. Which meant that they weren't...
NEWS
December 6, 2013 | By Carrie Rickey, For The Inquirer
When she was young, Kasi Lemmons ritually attended Langston Hughes' Black Nativity , a gospel version of the Christmas story, every December at the Tremont Temple overlooking Boston Common. She recalls, "It was my Nutcracker Suite . " "I remember the overwhelmed but joyous feeling it gave me," says the actress/director, now 52, mother of two by actor Vondie-Curtis Hall. "The music, the vivid colors, the pageantry - so soul-stirring. It put me in the holiday mood. " A few years back, the filmmaker of Eve's Bayou and Talk to Me met with producers about potential projects.
ENTERTAINMENT
November 30, 2013 | Reprinted from Wednesday's editions. By Steven Rea, Inquirer Movie Critic
A Christmas story about a mother long estranged from her parents, about her son who doesn't even know his grandma and grandpa, about hard times and near crimes, Black Nativity offers a whopping serving of Yuletide emotion. And it's a musical - with plenty of wailing and rapping on the side. Inspired by Langston Hughes' play of the same name, filmmaker Kasi Lemmons centers her tale on a moody teen, Langston (R&B star Jacob Latimore), who lives with his mother, Naima (Jennifer Hudson)
ENTERTAINMENT
November 27, 2013 | BY GARY THOMPSON, Daily News Staff Writer thompsg@phillynews.com, 215-854-5992
THERE'S a character in "Black Nativity" named Langston, but that's about all this movie has in common with the Langston Hughes gospel stage musical of the same name. Writer-director Kasi Lemmons ("Eve's Bayou") has made significant and interesting changes in the story and the music - in her updated version, a struggling single mom (Jennifer Hudson) sends her son (Jacob Latimore) to spend Christmas with his grandparents (Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett) in Harlem. Lemmons has repurposed some old songs and commissioned some new songs (by Raphael Saadiq)
NEWS
November 25, 2013 | By Steven Rea, Inquirer Movie Critic
Most years, Hollywood saves the really good stuff - the awards contenders, the thought-provoking, life-changing, controversial, and challenging titles - for right now: The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve are when the floodgates open. But 2013 has already offered a rich, multicourse feast - 12 Years a Slave , All Is Lost , Captain Phillips , Gravity , Blue Is the Warmest Color , Enough Said , Mud , Fruitvale Station , The Place Beyond the Pines , to name just a few. Is it possible there is more greatness (or really, really good-ness)
NEWS
December 9, 2010 | By Howard Shapiro, Inquirer Staff Writer
Black Nativity - a mixture of Langston Hughes' words, traditional carols, and gospel-genre songs that can be set partly in Africa, or on a slave ship, or in someone's house - is putty in a director's hands. Michael LeLand, who stages and choreographs the energetic current production by Theatre Double in Center City, plays it simple, and it works. Not only that, it works like no other holiday show I know of on a major stage hereabouts: It's a real telling of the Nativity, a show that actually bows to the biblical story of Christmas, and not the gift-giving, or the money-spending, or any of the stuff that is Christmas-minus-religion.
NEWS
December 18, 2006 | By Ellen Dunkel FOR THE INQUIRER
Eleone Dance Theatre's production of Carols in Color has a cast of 60 dancers and singers. And nearly everyone onstage Saturday night at the John E. Allen Jr. Theater at the Freedom Theatre looked as if there was no place they would rather be. Their emotional and physical investment in the piece really made it come alive. This year marks the 15th anniversary of Carols in Color, choreographed by E. Leon Evans 2d before he officially incorporated his company in 1992. Evans based his musical retelling of the Gospel according to St. Matthew on Black Nativity by Langston Hughes.
NEWS
January 3, 2006
JUST BEFORE the new year began, we heard some good news. New Freedom Theatre's repertory company was back in business. In September 2004, Freedom Theatre canceled the entire 2004-2005 season - even the popular Christmas musical "Black Nativity" was kept off stage - as it tried to cut costs, pay bills and regroup. The nation's oldest black theater company, situated on North Broad Street in a community that anxiously eagerly desires stories of hope and courage, gasped for life.
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