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Black Nativity: A Gospel Song Play

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Now in its third incarnation, this rollicking production by Congo Square Theatre Company has moved. And where performing it on the Goodman's small stage was like trying to dance on the head of a pin, the Duncan YMCA Chernin Center gives the show's five hoofers room to move. Once again ten fervent singer-actors give their all to the shtick and the music, backed by live keyboard and drums. Once again they tell the story of the Nativity but give it a refreshing fun-loving spin; in the second half, devoted to gospel music, Cherisse A. Scott and Jesse Dean Stanford go over big as Mahalia Jackson and the Reverend James Cleveland. A timeless piece of history, Black Nativity was written by Langston Hughes in 1961 and first adapted and directed by Mike Malone in 1979. Hughes died in 1967, and just this week Malone passed unexpectedly, at the age of 63. He's come to Chicago three years running to direct, and this year's program bio closes with his unintentionally poignant note to Congo Square: "I love them ALL!" a Through 12/31: Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 2 and 7:30 PM, Sun 2 PM, Thu 12/7-12/14, 10:30 AM, Duncan YMCA Chernin Center for the Arts, 1001 W. Roosevelt, 312-587-2292, $15-$37.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Brosilow.

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