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Life and Arts

On the Town: Humorous characters, interpretations keep the laughs coming in ‘Nativity: The Musical!’

Close to 100 congregants of Westminster Presbyterian Church teamed-up to present the 2018 version of
Close to 100 congregants of Westminster Presbyterian Church teamed up to present the 2018 version of “Nativity: The Musical!”
(David Laurell / Burbank Leader)

Although there is no scriptural basis for the presence of a young percussionist offering to play for the newborn Jesus, one thing is for sure: If there was such a lad in attendance at the Christ child’s birth, he would have most likely been softly “rum-pum-pum-puming” and not beating out post-one-liner rim shots.

While there is no doubting the fact that composer Katherine Kennicott Davis employed a good dose of poetic license when she wrote “The Little Drummer Boy” in 1941, she pales when it comes to the rim-shot-inducing Westminster Presbyterian Church’s annual presentation of “Nativity: The Musical!” which takes artistic liberties to the extreme.

Last week, for the 14th consecutive year, the husband-and-wife writing, producing and directing team of Greg and Melissa Baldwin continued Westminster Presbyterian’s reputation of telling the Biblical tale of Christ’s birth in the most, let’s say, unique way.

You know it’s not going to be a traditional Christmas pageant when Ruth Bader Ginsburg, played by Me
You know it's not going to be a traditional Christmas pageant when Ruth Bader Ginsburg, played by Megan Gerig, from left, visits Mary and Joseph, portrayed by Nevada Brandt and David Kalpakian, as Inspector Clouseau, played by Glenn Boggs, looks on.
(David Laurell / Burbank Leader)
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This annual theatrical extravaganza, based on the belief that God has a great sense of humor and wants us to laugh and be happy, beautifully blends the age-old story that is true to scripture with Felliniesque fun, a plethora of non-sequiturs as well as pop-culture characters, references, puns and sight gags.

Only in a performance of “Nativity: The Musical!,” which ran through last Sunday, would a phone call to the angel Gabriel — presented as a song-and-dance man — bring word that the “Boss” is to have a son.

That big news kicks off the first network television Christmas special.

Broadcast live from a Bethlehem stable and hosted by Bing Crosby, the show includes performances by a glamorous Hollywood starlet known as “The Star of Bethlehem,” Caesar Augustus, who headlines a lounge act at (where else) Caesar’s Palace, and King Herod, who has adopted the persona of the sinister Phantom of the Opera.

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During the two-hour show, Mary, Joseph, and the swaddled babe welcome guests such as “Saturday Night Live’s” David Pumpkins, Wayne Campbell and his sidekick, Garth, Alexander Hamilton, Peggy Schuyler, Abraham Lincoln, Santa Claus, Inspector Clouseau and chef Julia Child.

Add to that a trio of doorbell-ringing Mormons as the Magi, the Von Trapp Family Singers doing parodies of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Time Warp” from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and walk-ons by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and you get an idea of just how far this show snubs historical accuracy.

“Ginsburg!” exclaims the inn keeper when the justice makes the first of her multiple cameos to render opinions on the happenings. “How could that be? This is 3 BC, she won’t even be born for another five years!”

Lighting the way for the Star of Bethlehem is little star Bailey Warner. (Photo by David Laurell)
Lighting the way for the Star of Bethlehem is little star Bailey Warner.
(David Laurell / Burbank Leader)

Asked to provide his annual disclosure on this show that blends heartwarming moments with outlandish fun, Westminster Presbyterian Pastor Paul Clairville said there is really nothing that is not theologically correct in the show.

“Except for the odd characters and borscht-belt humor,” he added, with a laugh.

Clairville, who said his congregants don’t take themselves seriously, but that they do take their faith seriously, said this annual show has even inspired a local temple to present a similar production called “Chanukah: The Musical.”

“I think the best way to describe what our show is about is to take a line from one of this year’s songs,” Clairville said. “The world is dark and scary, and, at times, it’s hard to cope, but, tonight for just for a moment, we can bring you hope. That really sums it up.”

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David Laurell may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.


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