A film adaptation of Langston Hughes' classic holiday musical, the Black Nativity, earned about $4 million at the box office Thanksgiving weekend, competing against big budget draws such as Catching Fire.
The movie, starring Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson and Angela Bassett offers a feel-good but loosely based retelling of the 1961 play, critics say.
In Tampa, Kan Dance Studio will stage Black Nativity Dec. 14 at Blake High School.
African-American performers ages 6 to 60 will use music, poetry and dance to connect the contemporary Christian church to the time of Christ's birth, said Kandice Nunn Johnson, artistic director and choreographer. Audiences can expect an updated but true version of Hughes' work, she said.
Johnson, owner of Kan Dance, said she knew of Black Nativity productions in St. Petersburg, Lakeland and other major cities, but none in Tampa. She decided to bring the story to downtown.
"It is something I wanted to do for the city, to give the inner-city youth and their families a big Christmas show to come to," Johnson said.
Youth from Kan Dance, local church choirs and special guest actors will make up the cast. Larry Roundtree II, pastor at New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church; Antonio Hawkins, pastor at Exciting Hope Alive; Don Lott of True Worship Apostolic Faith; and the Rev. Philetha Tucker-Johnson will appear. Rehearsals for the production began in February.
"We are all working together to bring this to life," Johnson said.
Johnson, a 2002 Blake High graduate and graduate of Pennsylvania's University of the Arts, said her goal is to capture the audience through song. Interwoven into Hughes' original story will be Whitney Houston's renditions of Joy to the World and Mary Did You Know? Dancers will use movement to convey the emotions of Mary and Joseph at the manger.
Johnson said she didn't know about a movie version until recently but is excited to see it. She thinks it will generate more interest in the play.
"People who see it on the big screen will get a different perspective seeing it live," she said.
To purchase tickets for Black Nativity visit blacknativitytampa.eventbrite.com. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Don Thompson Theatre at Blake High, 1701 N Boulevard, Tampa. For more information, call (813) 985-5950.
Sarah Whitman can be reached at [email protected]