MILWAUKEE — The musical “Black Nativity” by Langston Hughes has become a holiday season staple in Milwaukee.
For the eighth year in a row, Black Arts MKE is bringing the production to life in a unique way at the Marcus Performing Arts Center. It runs from Dec. 7-10.
The historic, joyful musical that Hughes wrote in 1961 tells the story of the birth of Jesus from an African American perspective using music, dance, poetry and scripture. It features an all-Black cast and includes people of all ages.
Mel Saffold Spears is honored to play the leading role in this show. She portrays a doula, guiding Mary through the birth of Jesus.
“She is a very supportive and nurturing woman,” said Spears. “She’s wiser, and she is the nucleus of bringing life into the world.”
There will be new songs, scenes and costumes. The production is led by Ashley Jordan. It's her first time directing the play in Milwaukee.
“It’s an exhilarating experience,” said Jordan. “There’s something for everyone. Something morally that you can take with you, valuing the idea of family, oral tradition and coming together.”
From the dancing to stage design, Jordan and her team want to connect this historic musical to current life and experiences. She knows how important it is for Black children and families to see themselves depicted in a loving, positive way on stage and in stories.
“Representation matters,” said Jordan.
Spears said she hopes the play is uplifting for everyone who watches.
“It’s about connecting with families, so it’s definitely a family-oriented production,” said Spears. “If you’ve never seen it, and if you like music, you would love it. It’s just a time where you can be festive and bring your family together.”
Tickets are still available. To buy them, click here.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Ashley Jordan is the first woman to stage direct the play in Milwaukee. This error has been corrected. (Dec. 7, 2023)