November 22, 2015 |
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.
November 18, 2015 |
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.
November 6, 2015 |
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...
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.