Seattle's Child

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A Parent’s Review: Black Nativity

Intiman's Black Nativity, being performed at the Moore Theatre this year, is like going to the most awesome black church service ever. You get poetry by Langston Hughes, roof-raising modern Gospel music, a good dose of preaching and stunning spiritual dance.

There were two kinds of audience members at the opening night performance of Black Nativity: those for whom this is an expression of their own spiritual, literary and musical traditions, and those, including me, for whom Black Nativity is a chance to enjoy a tradition that is not my own. In the seats around us, some answered back to the preacher and sang along to the gospel songs, and others took it in for the first time. It's a great show either way.

Black Nativity is like two shows in one. The first half is a retelling of the birth of Jesus as "a gospel song play," by Langston Hughes. Pastor Patrinell Wright, the founder and director of the Total Experience Gospel Choir, is the musical director for the show. Her opening rendition of "Joy to the World" sets the tone with her gorgeous soulful voice leading the choir. A five-piece ensemble of drums, guitar, bass and keyboards opens the show and accompanies the singing and narration throughout. Narrators read from the Biblical story of Jesus' birth and the poetic words of Hughes, and the choir sings Christmas carols to tell of Mary and Joseph's travels to Bethlehem, Christ's birth and the visit of the three Kings. Dancers act out the story.

Amber Nicole Mayberry, who trained at the Washington School of Ballet and the Dance Theater of Harlem, is phenomenal in the role of Mary.

The second half of the show takes the audience to the "Intiman Nondenominational Church," led by Pastor Alphonso H. Meadows, Jr., the Senior Pastor of Ebenezer A.M.E. Zion Church in Seattle. Pastor Meadows welcomes the audience to church and introduces the musical and dance performances in the second act of the show. There are too many outstanding musical and dance performances to name them all. Individual choir members step into the spotlight for various numbers, including "He's the Greatest" and "Ave Maria."

So, does this stunning show work for kids? Yes, with a couple of caveats: The music is loud for sensitive young ears. That was the biggest complaint from my 5- and 8-year-old daughters. Ear plugs would have brought the volume down to a reasonable range without my kids missing out. Secondly, 5 years old is stretching the lower age limit for the show. My younger daughter did enjoy much of it, but her attention wandered in parts and she fell asleep before the two-plus-hour show was over (admittedly, we were there for opening night, which began at 7:30 p.m.) I would recommend it for ages 7 and older, but you know your child and can best gauge whether he or she is old enough to enjoy the show.

Black Nativity is a wonderful opportunity to share great performances in your own church tradition, or to introduce your kids to this beautiful tradition.



Where: Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., Seattle

When: Through Dec. 26. Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. There’s no 7:30 p.m. performance on Christmas Eve, and no performances on Christmas Day.

Cost: Adults $35-$55, youth (age 18 and under) $15.

Contact: 206-269-1900;

Ruth Schubert is the managing editor of Seattle's Child.

About the Author

Ruth Schubert