First performed in 1961, Langston Hughes’ musical Black Nativity – a retelling of Jesus Christ’s birth story using an entirely Black cast in an urban, contemporary setting – remains as relevant as ever. Black Arts MKE has made an annual tradition of adapting the show for Milwaukee audiences since 2015, and this year’s production, running Dec. 9-12 at the Marcus Center’s Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall (929 N. Water St.) continues to take the show in new directions.
“We’re celebrating Black culture, and Milwaukee is engraved all throughout this production,” says director Dimonte Henning, himself a native.
The show features new choreography and music, and promotes a message of hope rooted in the turmoil of the past two years. “The Black community has faced tragedy after tragedy throughout this past year-and-a-half,” Henning writes in the show notes. “From economic disadvantages that have plagued our community for decades and that are clear as day, to unjustified police killings, to loss of life due to a pandemic. But the triumph in all of this is: We are still here. Still alive. Still breathing. With the power in our hands to tell our own stories.”
Henning says he hopes this musical will serve as a form of escape for the audience, helping them forget this time of isolation and lose themselves in the song and dance. “It feels great to be back,” he says. “I feel grateful to be in a room with people that I love and be able to share this story with our community.”