By Greg Simay
Looking back at the 2012 holiday season, one of the high points for me was the charming Nativity: The Musical, performed by members of the Westminster Presbyterian Church here in Burbank. Cecil B. De Mille had a cast of thousands. Nativity: The Musical had a cast of dozens, and they were all delightful. Oh, and there were a couple of real-life ponies as well.
Like the old saying, the show made you laugh and it made you cry. Actually, it made the packed audience laugh a lot. The warm up was a send up of beloved holiday movies (Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, etc.) on the large video screens. Then came the live acts: a snappy rendition of Star of Bethlehem, followed by comedy skits and Broadway songs adapted to the season. A small sampler: “Virgin Mary’s The One I Love”, “We Call The Babe Messiah”, “Soothsayer, Soothsayer” and “Cousins, Cousins” (the Virgin Mary and her older and very pregnant cousin Elizabeth, remember?). There’s even a Joseph rapping “Word…of God”.
All the humor yielded gracefully to the moment evoking reverence within the Christian community: the birth of Jesus. A particularly beautiful song was “A Baby Changes Everything”. (Mary’s Baby certainly did.)
The one somber moment of the musical was the story of the Holy Innocents, the two-year-old male babies King Herod killed in an attempt to also kill the baby Jesus, whom he saw as a future rival for his throne. Some scholars question whether such an event actually occurred, but in light of modern day atrocities against innocent children, the Biblical account is all too plausible.
But the dominant tone of Nativity: The Musical was joyous fun. It’s as if Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney had looked at each other and said, “Let’s put on a show! About Christmas! And we’ll get all our friends in church to join in! Plus a pet or two!” As writer/lyricist/co-director GREG BALDWIN put it, “We need to take our faith seriously, but not ourselves seriously.”
Put Nativity: the Musical on next year’s list of feel-good holiday activities. Each year the skits and songs are freshly conceived. And if you have friends or acquaintances that think Christians are killjoys, take them with you to this show. It will do more to dissolve their prejudices than a hundred sermons.
Look for Nativity: The Musical in early December next year at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 542 N. Buena Vista Street, Burbank. Call (818) 842-5264 or go to www.westpresburbank.org.