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A Thoroughly Modern Noel

Peter Roberts’ gospel musical “The Christmas Story--Like It’s Never Been Told” does its best to live up to its title by putting a decidedly contemporary spin on the ages-old story of the birth of Christ.

When they’re not making joyful noise during the production’s several show-stopping numbers, characters from the wise men to shepherds convey a style that seems straight out of post-riot Los Angeles, 1993. Director Andre David Brooks injects such human touches as an affecting love scene between Joseph and Mary, camaraderie among the shepherds and plenty of jazzy, body-moving music from a cast of 60.

The all-black cast, pooled from talent at several churches in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties, also tells much of biblical history from an Afrocentric point of view.

“I want people to leave both enlightened and entertained,” said Brooks, who has a background in theater and is youth music director at Trinity Baptist Church in Jefferson Park. The musical is produced by Macedonia Baptist Church, at 85 the oldest African American church in Watts. Pastor Robert L. Mason said this “Christmas Story” is special.

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“People in this production have a 20th Century presence, but the story is a traditional one,” Mason said. “It brings together both the spiritual and the human issues that are at a crisis point in the city and the world.”

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“The Christmas Story--Like It’s Never Been Told,” Saturday, 3 and 7 p.m., and Dec. 19, 3 p.m. at the Embassy Theatre, 851 S. Grand Ave.; $12 to $20; (213) 758-2733 or (213) 295-8223.


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