The classic religious story about Mary and Joseph will be brought to life in a display of gospel music and dance at Black Theatre Troupe this month.

Black Theatre Troupe will perform “Black Nativity” Dec. 6-8, 12-15 and 20-22 at the Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center at 1333 E. Washington St. Poet and playwright Langston Hughes created this musical about Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve trying to find a room at an inn.

Reverend Jeremy Jones, in the back, portrays the narrator in Black Theatre Troupe’s “Black Nativity” last year. The troupe will perform the musical again this month at Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center (photo by Laura Durant).

“The story is exactly the story that everyone would know,” Walter Belcher, who directs “Black Nativity,” said. “The vehicle is gospel music. It’s done through the lens of exploring the Christmas story through an African-American lens but it uses gospel music as that vehicle.”

A cast of approximately 20 performers delivers the tale in two acts: the first is scripted with gospel music but the second changes with every performance. Alexander Patrick, who has the part of Joseph, and Shaniece Brazwell, who plays Mary, both were cast for their strong dance experience. These characters do not speak during the musical but physically express the story. The choreography includes African style with a drum along with lyrical, jazz and hip-hop genres. Jeremy Jones is the narrator, guiding the audience through the story and setting up each scene.

The show is a staple in the Valley and it sold out last year.

“I think one thing that helps is that people already come because they’re in the Christmas spirit,” Belcher said. “People are already in a joyous mood. There’s definitely some moments of being able to sing along with ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful.’”

Tickets are $41 per person. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit


  • Colleen Sparks

    A 25-year industry veteran, she's written for a variety of outlets including The Arizona Republic, East Valley Tribune, Money Talks News, and North Central News.

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