December 6, 2013 |
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.
November 30, 2013 |
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)
November 27, 2013 |
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)
November 25, 2013 |
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)
December 9, 2010 |
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.
December 18, 2006 |
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.
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.
November 30, 2004
BUOYED by determined volunteers, The New Freedom Theatre continues to dig out from under a $4 million debt. It has already canceled the 2004-2005 repertory season - even abandoned its holiday money-maker "Black Nativity" - to save $700,000. The cancellation shocked some because it meant the proud but financially shaky theater company was undoubtedly in deep trouble. The action wasn't a shepherd's cry of wolf; it was a black venue's scream for help. In the down time, Interim Managing Director Walter Dallas and other Freedom associates have focused on how to cut costs, increase revenue, keep the lights on, pay the bills and raise money.
November 5, 2004
TOMORROW afternoon Philadelphia's New Freedom Theatre will host a town meeting, the second in just over a month. Those gathered will again brainstorm, ask questions, and seek ways to save the struggling black theater. Beset by a $4 million debt, poor management, a canceled season, and a failure to connect with its surrounding community, Freedom Theatre gasps for life. It should be saved. It's no secret how Freedom reached this point. Interim Managing Director Walter Dallas has talked about the journey; how construction of the beautiful $7 million, 299-seat John E. Allen Jr. Theatre turned into a financial debacle.
November 25, 2003 |
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.