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'Black Nativity' begins Friday at Emma Kelly Theatre

    On Friday evening, December 21st, Langston Hughes' "Black Nativity" will begin its three-day run at the Emma Kelly Theatre in downtown historic Statesboro. Starring in the production are Vidalia's Wardlaw Brothers, a quintet of inspired vocalists who recently won rave reviews when they opened for the 2007 National Baptist Convention USA in Philadelphia, Pa. Hoping to repeat previous successes during the Christmas season, Cleve White is producing the play for the third year. His Nissan dealership is one of the most respected businesses in the country and was recently listed as one of "The Best in the Boro." "Black Nativity" marks White's first venture into theatrical producing. The musical is directed by Mical R. Whitaker, a recently retired Georgia Southern University theatre professor and director who makes his home in Metter. His involvement with the musical goes back to the 1980s during his career in New York City.
    The Wardlaw Brothers have been cast as The Shepherds in the gospel song-play which tells the story of the birth of Christ from an African American perspective. According to the director, "The professional polish and sound of this group are a perfect fit as the Shepherds. Their rich a capella harmonies, and genuine humor, truly stir the heart at the show's climatic moments." The musical was well-received when it played at the Toombs Auditorium at Southeastern Tech in Vidalia, the home of the Wardlaw Brothers (TWB).
    "Black Nativity" was a 1961 Broadway hit and ushered in a genre of gospel-inspired African American theatre which has grown in popularity ever since. Already gospel giants, Professor Alex Bradford and Marion Williams became international theatre stars as a result of "Black Nativity." Nearly a half century later, it has played in every major European capital and is an enduring holiday favorite in African American communities throughout the United States.
    The musical director for "Black Nativity" is the well-known minister and musician Brock Taylor. The cast includes some of this area's most well-known gospel singers and preachers: Shaunta Ellis, Robin Holmes-Wooten, Melissa Bennett, Edward Ellis and Marcus McCray among others. The roles of Mary and Joseph will be played by GSU students Dionn Richardson and William "Trey" Walker III. Felecia George Prince is the show's costume designer. Denver Byrd and Phillip Tremble are stage managers and Mical Anthony Whitaker handles lighting with the Averitt's technical director, Robert Faller.
    "Black Nativity" will play for four performances at the Emma Kelly Theatre through Dec. 23. Call the box office for tickets and information at (912) 212-ARTS or Cleve White Nissan at (912) 681-4700.

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