Restless Nativity

While crooner Bing Crosby wasn’t present when Christ was born, he is one of several offbeat characters in Westminster Presbyterian Church’s “Nativity! The Musical.”

This is the third year that writer-director team Greg and Melissa Baldwin is producing the show, which tells a moving version of the birth of Christ with several wacky embellishments, organizers said.

“It’s an irreverent look at something very reverent,” said David Brandt, who portrays Crosby.

“It puts the whole thing on a level that everyone can understand, and it’s joyous, it’s fun and it embraces you.”

The way it’s performed, it’s more meaningful because of the humor and comedy in it, he said.

“I’m sure if you read the story of Jesus’ birth, there’s a lot of comical things about it in the Bible, and our creators of the show have brought those elements out.”

Playing Crosby in the show is of special significance to Brandt because his grandmother used to date Crosby, he said.

“I’ve always loved singing ‘White Christmas,’ and this was a wonderful opportunity that I get to sing it in the show,” he said.

“It’s fun because Bing Crosby’s version is by far the best. It makes it a small world.”

Brandt handles the role very well and looks somewhat like Crosby, Greg Baldwin said.

“Crosby is associated with Christmas, so it’s important to give the audience Bing,” he said.

“He’s the third-most-well-known personage associated with Christmas after Christ and Santa Claus.”

Other quirky additions this year are “Pirates of the Caribbean” character Capt. Jack Sparrow and Ulysses S. Grant, who will pal around with show veteran Abraham Lincoln, who appears in all of the church’s productions, Greg Baldwin said.

“It’s very strange because these are characters you wouldn’t associate with a Nativity pageant,” he said. “We add these strange characters because it makes us laugh and makes the audience laugh as well because it’s so unexpected.”

While it has some hilarious moments, audience members have told him it’s a wonderful and interesting telling of Jesus’ birth, he said.

“Not only is it moving as you would expect a Nativity pageant to be, but also very funny,” he said.

Tom McGovern of Santa Monica saw the production last year because two of his friends were performing in it.

“I thought it was very well done,” he said.

“There were a lot of little vignettes and they were very funny. You could apply them to modern-day and recent history.”

And while it had a lot of humor, there wasn’t anything that would offend a Christian, he said, adding that he knew a non-Christian who also saw it and enjoyed it.

“It appeals to the masses,” he said.

While the production is entertaining, it also allows church members a chance to perform, Greg Baldwin said.

“There are about 70 church members in the production, and that’s about half of the church,” he said.

“Ninety-five percent of the people who go to our church are somehow related to the entertainment industry.”

And many families are involved, Melissa Baldwin said.

“There’s several husband-and-wife teams and their kids,” she said.

“One of the wise men is a dad, and his daughter plays an elf. They are not in the same scenes together, but they’re in the show.”

Creating a project that families can do together is one of the purposes of the show, she said.

“Especially at Christmastime, if we’re going to spend a lot of time doing something, it might as well be an opportunity to perform together. So many people get a kick out of it, so it makes it really worthwhile.”

The Baldwins’ daughter, Sydney Baldwin, plays Mary. She is one of several students in the show who are in the choir at John Burroughs High School, Melissa Baldwin said.

The youngsters look forward to getting the chance to play the lead roles, she said.

“Sydney’s been waiting a few years now to play Mary,” she said.

The roles of Mary and Joseph are played straight, she added.

“We get pretty whacked, but the core of the story is the Nativity, and make sure the craziness doesn’t affect Mary and Joseph,” she said.

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