On the Town: Nativity musical blends 'classic' with 'out there'

With the holiday season upon us, the odds are good that some folks may be invited to a party, imbibe a bit too much spiked egg nog or eat a few bad mushrooms, pass out, and experience visions of surreal and bizarre events and characters dancing in their heads.

Or, they could experience the exact same thing (sans the churning stomach and hangover) by simply having attended one of the four performances of “Nativity! The Musical 2012” presented by Burbank's Westminster Presbyterian Church this past week.

While Nativity pageants and programs are traditional offerings at most Christian churches during Christmastime, there has never been anything traditional or conventional about the way the good folks at Westminster Pres interpret and tell the story. While their shows do include the classic characters of Mary, Joseph, the swaddled babe, King Herod, Augustus Caesar, shepherds, angels and wise men, they are also heavily laden with others that didn't quite make it into the Gospels including (are ya ready?) Abraham Lincoln, Las Vegas show girls, cowpokes, hula dancers, Cap'n Crunch, Santa Claus, Bing Crosby, Charlie Brown, Annie Oakley, Honey Boo Boo, the Von Trapp family from “The Sound of Music,” and bike-riding magi who look like they stepped right off the stage of “The Book of Mormon.”

This year marks the eighth year that entertainment industry veterans Greg and Melissa Baldwin have written and directed this original musical comedy that has drawn Burbankers and beyond in droves to enjoy the song parodies, non sequiturs, pop culture references and other odd and (sometimes) unexplained happenings that are weaved into the age-old story.

This year's show, subtitled “Doomsday or Bust,” began with a Mayan prophet, played by Mike Maldonado, proclaiming the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012.

“We wanted to get the shows over before the 21st so we would have a few days to seek repentance,” laughed the church's pastor, Paul Clairville, who believes the incorporation of humor and drama makes their annual shows appealing to those who would not normally attend a church program. “Jesus used parables to tell stories,” Clairville added. “And some of them, like the story of the Good Samaritan, had surprising twists that folks would not have seen coming.”

Among those who starred in this year's surprising twist-filled production were Julia Newton as Mary, Nick Rogus as Joseph, Paul Rogus as the Archangel Gabriel, W. Earl Brown as King Herod and numerous members of John Burroughs High School's award-winning choirs.

In a show that sees the foretelling of Christ's birth come from a Magic 8-Ball, Caesar heading up a lounge act complete with showgirls at his palace, the interruption of the show for the running of a television campaign ad for King Herod, a Sammy Davis Jr.-inspired shepherd, the inn without vacancies run by two burned-out hippies and the Von Trapp family dancing and singing “back to the manger again” a parody of the “Time Warp” from the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” one can easily understand why a running gag of each year's performance of this production includes little tykes in the roles of haloed-cherubim break the fourth wall and deadpan to the audience: “This show gets weirder and weirder every year!”

DAVID LAURELL can be reached by e-mail dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

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