Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Black Nativity is a Joyful, Hand-Clapping, Foot-Stomping Event
The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre is presenting a soul-stirring celebration of Christmas based on Langston Hughes' musical gospel play through December 24th at their theatre located at 620 Sutter Street, San Francisco.
Black Nativity's first act is an inspiring account of the nativity story, with members of the large cast playing various parts in the Christmas pageant. There is a wonderful blend of singing and dancing that is visually exciting. Veteran actor Andre C. Andree, speaking the lines of the great African-American poet Langston Hughes, is a stand out. His lyrical voice captures the essence of this great writer. Lakisha Ashley as Mary and Antoine-Devinci Hunter as Joseph dance beautifully together.
Black Nativity's chorus is awesome as their voices ring out though the theatre. Exceptional performances are provided by gospel singers Robin Hodge-Williams, Faye Carol and Yolanda Cato-Freeman. Robin Hodge-Williams brings great dignity to her renditions of "Joy to the World," "No Way's Cloudy" and "Sweet Jesus Boy" in the first act. Faye Carol, who has been recognized as one of San Francisco's most versatile and creative female vocalists, stylish for over three decades with her full range voice, is particularly inspiring singing "I Don't Feel No Ways Tired." Yolanda Cato brings down the house with "Go Tell It On the Mountain."
Director Stanley E. Williams has incorporated humor into the first act with the comic actions of shepherds, sung by Kevin Austin, Linwood F."Woody" Clark, Luther-Michael Spratt and Mark Richardson to the swinging melody of "No-Good Shepherd." Choreography by Antonio Naranjo is energetic with seven graceful dancers interacting with choral singing of the praises of the birth of Jesus Christ.
While the first act is the actual telling of the nativity, the second takes place inside a church in the present time. Each member enters and takes a seat facing the audience. The women are dressed to the nines with wonderful hats. When all have entered, Andre C. Andree, now a fire and brimstone minister, leads the congregation in some hand-clapping, foot-stomping singing. Everyone has terrific vocal cords. Director Stanley E. Williams has incorporated little comical dramas between the singers that are a joy to watch. Robin Hodge-Williams, Faye Carol and Yolanda Cato-Freeman are wonderful singing gospel songs. The duet between Ms. Williams and Mrs. Carol in "Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody" is magnetizing with their great vocal technique.
Black Nativity runs though December 24th at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 620 Sutter Street at Mason, San Francisco. For tickets please call 415-474-8800 or go one line at www.LHTSF.org.
Lorraine Hansberry Theatre's next production will be August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone, opening on February 1 and running through February 25th.