Black Nativity: A Gospel Song Play | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Black Nativity: A Gospel Song Play

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Mary and Joseph dance instead of speak, the heavenly host wear African garb, and the good news about Jesus is told in gospel songs in Mike Malone's adaptation of Langston Hughes's 1961 work. Thrillingly sung and efficiently danced in this Congo Square Theatre Company production, the two-act piece consists of Hughes's folksy retelling of the Nativity, then Malone's history of gospel music. What links the two halves is their mix of jocularity and reverence. Malone's Ailey-derived choreography is underwhelming, especially when he blends African dance with airy ballet flourishes, though the stage is so small that any assessment might be unfair. And the final song's doctrinaire message--believe in Jesus or perish--is depressing. But the powerhouse singers are fabulous (particularly Joelle LaMarre, stirring as Mahalia Jackson), as are Reggie Ray's costumes: check out the Three Wise Men for the height of funky chic. Through 1/2: schedule follows. Through 12/19: Thu 7:30 PM, Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 2 PM. Then 12/22-1/2: Wed 2 PM, Thu 2 and 7:30 PM, Sun 2 PM. Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, 312-443-3800. $22-$35.

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