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Black Nativity opens Friday at Averitt Center

Gospel musical retells classic story

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Black Nativity opens Friday at Averitt Center

In this photo of a New York production of "Black Nativity," the three wise men make a point to a passerby. Cleve White's production of the musical will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Averitt Center.

    Local theater legend Mical Whitaker said his fourth year of directing Cleve White's production of “Black Nativity” will be his most fully realized version of the Christmas musical.
    “This is our senior year of staging 'Black Nativity,' so I feel confident our cast, crew and myself will create a most beautiful and moving play,” Whitaker said. “The musical feels very comfortable to all of us.”
    It is the fifth year that White, who owns Cleve White Nissan, will bring “Black Nativity “ to the Averitt Center for the Arts. Shows are set for Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the night of each performance. Tickets for youths 15 and under are $10. Call 212-2787 or stop by the Averitt Center box office to purchase tickets.
    “Black Nativity” was written by Langston Hughes and first performed on Broadway in 1961. The play follows the classic Nativity story with an entirely black cast.
    “Directing “Black Nativity” is pretty much a rite of passage for all young black directors,” said Whitaker, who is black and first directed the play in the early 1980s. “It is the most performed all black musical in the world.”
    Whitaker, who retired several years ago from Georgia Southern as a theater professor, said he believes the musical retains its universal appeal because “It is as simple and profound as the Christmas season.”
    Whitaker said many of the current cast members were part of past productions and the rehearsals have brought back a familiar feel.
    “We unpacked the set decorations and the costumes came back from the cleaners,” Whitaker said. “It really feels comfortable slipping back into the play. It feels like we really know what we're doing.”
    Whitaker also is excited about two new actors playing the central roles of Mary and Joseph.
    “We have two young people from Shay Morgan's School of Dance,” he said. “They are 15-16 years old and they bring a freshness to the whole production.
    The cast performs several original songs and also sings some traditional Christmas carols in a gospel style.
    “It is a delightful musical that carries the powerful message of the birth of Jesus,” Whitaker said. “I guarantee it will put folks in the holiday spirit.”
    James Healy can be reached at (912) 489-9402.
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