Triad Stage presents “Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity”
At the Pyrle Theatre in downtown Greensboro, a holiday show truly fit for all ages, will be showing until Dec. 24. Written and directed by Preston Lane with original music and musical direction by Laurelyn Dossett and presented by The Carroll Companies, “Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity” was commissioned and originally produced in 2006 by Triad Stage and was published by Playscripts, Inc. in New York, New York.
From the name, you know this show is not your usual nativity story you’re used to seeing in church. “Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity” is an interactive theatre experience that walks through memorable stories from the Christian Bible right up through to the iconic nativity scene that is so familiar to us all. The show is set inside of a small church, the Open Heart Community Fellowship nestled in the hills of North Carolina–with stained glass windows and small wooden pews– and transforms to a different time and place throughout each scene. The first act is composed of the memorable Bible stories of Adam and Eve; Noah and the great flood and Abraham and Isaac. While the second act is composed of the nativity story that the show is named after. These memorable stories are all told through an Appalachian lens, in that each story has its twist complete with Southern twang and bluegrass music interludes.
This play is by all accounts, wholesome and fit for all audiences. As someone who consistently (and quite literally) had to be dragged to church on Christmas Eve each year to hear the same old story about a baby born to a virgin mother in a stable, this play was not on my radar.
However, after seeing this unforgettable play for myself on Dec. 10 and holding back tears, I can vouch for it and would recommend it to readers of YES! Weekly. Don’t think for one minute “Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity” showcases the “holier than thou,” conservative, Southern Christians that may come to mind upon reading the title–they aren’t trashy either. The cast of “Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity” was friendly, warm and inclusive. Playing Rev. Roy Ledbetter and God, Carroll Michael Johnson’s performance was strong and proved him to be the leader of the show. Supporting, yet also taking the reigns during the second act, the preacher’s wife Vestina Ledbetter, Noah’s wife and Abraham’s wife, played by Cinny Strickland, was anything but second banana to the men she supported. Her wit and stage presence of each character she portrayed showcased her wide range of experience and ability. Some of the most memorable and truly dramatic performances came from Lawrence Evans (playing Vernon Sparks, Abraham, angel and shepherd) and 10-year-old Davari Moyd (playing Paul Sparks, Isaac and a wise man) in their scene depicting the story of Abraham and Isaac. How does God reconcile with giving his son to save humanity? According to this show, by testing man to see if he will give his son to God. This scene brought many audience members, including the lady sitting beside me, to tears as Evans expresses his deep sorrow for having to kill his only son to please God and tiny Moyd’s sweet and sad acceptance of his fate. Moyd, in my own opinion, stole the show by playing one of the three wise men in the second act. The Virgin Mary was played by Jillian Louis (who also played Eve and Ethel Green) and she was the picturesque virgin Mary by all accounts. Her beautiful and unbreakable voice as she passionately sings “O Holy Night” as the finale to the show, left the audience in awe.
By bringing these characters to life, the cast of “Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity” shone brighter than the beautiful star itself. This production delivered a two-hour show that taught the audience that the true meaning of Christmas is hope and love, and that is what shines the brightest this holiday season.