Atlanta’s ‘Black Nativity’ returns, promises to be a show for all

The show will run at Georgia Tech starting Dec. 7.
"Black Nativity: a Gospel Christmas Musical Experience" runs from Dec. 7-17 at Georgia Tech. Lawrence Flowers (bottom row, far left) is among the stars of the production. Credit: Shoccara Marcus

Credit: shoccara marcus

Credit: shoccara marcus

"Black Nativity: a Gospel Christmas Musical Experience" runs from Dec. 7-17 at Georgia Tech. Lawrence Flowers (bottom row, far left) is among the stars of the production. Credit: Shoccara Marcus

Chris Hagan has performed in “Black Nativity: a Gospel Christmas Musical Experience” for so long that it has become a holiday tradition for him.

“When this time of the year comes, I already know that I get to share this little gift that I have with the community through this medium,” said Hagan, who’s been in the musical since its inception. “So, in that regard it means a lot and we look forward to it every year.”

Hagan plays a deacon and one of the wise men in Dominion Entertainment’s “Black Nativity,” which runs from Dec. 7-17 at Georgia Tech. The annual holiday gem reframes the story of Jesus’ birth through a Black lens. Featuring loads of spirituals, gospel music and contemporary dance, this year’s “Black Nativity” has a stellar cast that includes Hagan, Latrice Pace (of the legendary Pace Sisters), Dathan Thigpen, Lawrence Flowers and more.

Dominion Entertainment has produced the show since 2012. Robert John Connor, who’s an executive producer and director of the production, said he’s always blown away by the quality of talent that’s in the show. He said about 10,000 people attend the show each year.

“This is, for the African American community, our “Christmas Carol,” our “Nutcracker.” ... We have a very fast rehearsal process — a two week rehearsal process,” Connor said. “But in that two weeks, we come back with a lot of choreography, a lot of staging, a lot of music to kind of create this experience of very talented artists from around the Atlanta area, who I would say confidently that there’s probably not that level of talent that you will see even on the Broadway stage.”

"Black Nativity: a Gospel Christmas Musical Experience" runs from Dec. 7-17 at Georgia Tech.  Lawrence Flowers (second from the far left) and Chris Hagan (third from the far right, behind the dancer) are among the stars of the production. Credit: Shoccara Marcus

Credit: shoccara marcus

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Credit: shoccara marcus

Lawrence Flowers, who plays a choir director and shepherd in the production, said the rehearsals feel like a bootcamp. He’s performed in the musical since 2014 and considers his castmates family.

“Being in a room of amazing talent and family, we get a chance to kind of feed off of each other, learn new things and kind of sharpen the skills that we have,” Flowers said. “Even though it’s a show that we’ve done so many times, we are challenged on a level that makes us better actors, better singers and better dancers.”

The camaraderie among the cast is so deep that the end of the production is always a bittersweet moment for Hagan.

“When we’re done, we miss each other. We get to the end and it’s almost over and it’s like ‘Oh my, I’m not gonna see you next week.’ This is a great time for us to get together and to share the gifts that God has blessed us with ― with each other and with the community.”

Flowers said “Black Nativity” has something in store for everyone — even those who are seeing it for the first time.

Flowers hopes it will help audiences understand their purpose, their relationships with one another and have “a real experience connected to love, fellowship and spirituality. This show is going to give that to you in a very unique, authentic but real way. It’s going to allow you to experience theater in a way that most people don’t get a chance to experience it.”

For Connor, “Black Nativity” is more than just a production. It’s a feeling that audiences won’t forget — and an experience.

“It is called an experience for a reason,” said Connor. “They can expect the music, they can expect the special level performances they can expect the feel. ... We have audiences from all walks of life. I would say that all faiths, all religious beliefs come in the room, just because it’s such a riveting experience.”


MUSICAL PREVIEW

“Black Nativity: a Gospel Christmas Musical Experience”

Dec. 7-17. $39-$65. Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech, 349 Ferst Drive NW, Atlanta. 404-894-9600, arts.gatech.edu.

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