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Stanley E. Williams and the "Black Nativity" cast at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre this year have pulled out all the stops and transformed the story that might have been inspired by Langston Hughes, but has certainly taken on a life of its own Year Nine. Carla Punch's "Dancing Mary" and Antonio Naranjo's "Dancing Joseph" had a chemistry Saturday night I hadn't noticed before in other productions. Joseph really seemed to care about his dear wife who was about to give birth on the streets of Bethlehem. The song the choir sang later on, expressing sorrow at the treatment they gave their lord, was no excuse. They said, "They didn't know who he was, otherwise they'd have treated him better." I thought about all the people who are denied basic human rights because someone doesn't recognize their worth. If nothing else, this story is one that shows how wrong it is to value one life over another. The setting of the gospel story of Christ's birth this year is framed by another story--a Christmas pageant at a local church. It's a great way to illustrate just this, why we should treat everyone the same. What if Mary had miscarried or lost her child? Yvonne Cobbs-Bey's musical arrangements and the trio, headed by Ms. Faye Carol with Yolanda Caro Freeman, not to mention Cobbs-Bey are wonderful. Carol was even more on point than usual. This is one live recording I am looking forward to purchasing next year. I wondered when Mary was left to wait for Joseph to return with lodging why he never returned and after she is surrounded by the choir --all women, she emerges with a baby, Joseph no where to be found. It felt like James Baldwin's "Amen Corner," not Langston Hughes retelling of the Christmas story with gospel music. I mean, how stereotypical. In the ghetto, dads do this all too frequently. And when one thinks about the Black family and the damage enslavement still has on its development, to change the story, which is about family where one of the few men on stage is honorable, is unthinkable. Not only was Joseph not the kid's biological dad, he took care of him as his own. This is a story that shouldn't be altered. I hope Joseph is back at manger to witness and help Mary in "Black Nativity Take 10." The "Three Shepherds" are now deacons and the "No Good Shepherd" is now a jazz musician who can't hold his liquor. His treatment reminds me of how jazz music was frowned on by the church. Thank goodness there are places where there are jazz masses in New York; and here, of course, we have the Church of St. John Coltrane. I obviously didn't like the reference, but perhaps the director is being historical in the expressed bias? The great songs are too numerous to name them all, but my favorites were all of Faye Carol's: "No Room," "Silent Night," "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," "He's an On Time God" and "Get Away Jordan." Whether she was on or in front of the beat, the musicians were with her. The two person band - Roland Pollard on keyboards and Davon Vigay on drums - were a big difference from the larger bands in the past, though just as good, especially the young drummer, a high school senior at Emery High in Emeryville. He was playing electronic pads. The two musicians looked so cool on stage. When I saw Vigay later on as I was leaving, I was surprised he was so young. The stage was blue sky, lit with stars - the landscape uncharted and open in Act 1. The church scene in Act 2 was its usual cacophony of laughter as the fast girl and fast boy were kept apart by church deacons and mothers situated between them in chairs. Mothers placing hankies on thighs a little too exposed. One husband put his coat on his wife's legs. It was funny, the mood shifting between the reverent and the profane as the choir sang and the congregation testified - Rev. Andre Andree, leader of the flock guided the service. At one point early on, one of the ushers, Yehmanja Houff, sang this lovely song - rather she testified in song so convincingly - I almost expected people in the theatre to jump up and shout. At the end of the play we're on our feet also as the ensemble sang "Packing Up" and then "Giants." The gospel celebration of Christmas continues through Dec. 30 at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 620 Sutter, at Mason Street, in San Francisco. Call (415) 474-8800 or visit www.lhtsf,org.” - Wanda Sabir

SF Bay View National Black Newspaper

Black Nativity For the past eight holiday seasons, the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre's take on African-American writer Langston Hughes' gospel musical "Black Nativity," directed by Stanley Williams, has been making audiences laugh, cry and even dance in the aisles. Says this year's musical director, gospel singer Yvonne Cobbs-Bey, the show is breaking away from the Hughes script to really make it the Lorraine Hansberry's own. Of the show's 24 songs, only three gospel standards are repeats; the rest are new. "The roots aren't taken away," she explains. "They're still there, and everything else is blooming around them." Cobbs-Bey performs as a principal along with vocalists Faye Carol, Yolanda Cato-Freeman and a cast that includes church choristers. It's about love and optimism and hope," adds Cobbs-Bey. "I want people to grasp those concepts. We're here to help one another, serve one another. We are not alone." Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 620 Sutter St., through Dec. 30, 474-8800,” - Jean Schiffman

SF Arts Monthly Top Stories

Theatre Reviews Archives Theatre Reviews RSS Feed The Black Nativity — A Gospel Celebration of Christmas by jeanne powell The Black Nativity — A Gospel Celebration of Christmas Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, SF - through December 30, 2007 The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in San Francisco presents its annual gospel celebration of Christmas, a delight for the whole family, and not a moment too soon. This nourishing musical is a treat for all, regardless of whether one celebrates Winter Solstice or Kwaanza or any spirituality. The Black Nativity reminds us with song, dance, humor and poignancy to celebrate life, and for Christians especially to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The first act recreates biblical verses surrounding His birth — Roman taxation order, travel to Bethlehem, no room at the inn for the pregnant Mary, birth, worship (”we three kings of orient are…”), celebration. The second act focuses on rich traditions of the urban AfricanAmerican church, whose very existence is a miracle. After all, Christianity in the New World initially was forced on survivors of the Middle Passage, the African Holocaust, as a way to subdue them. Lighting up the stage in this production are wonderfully talented lead singers Faye Carol, Yvonne Cobbs-Bey and Yolanda Cato Freeman. Andre C. Andree’ is perfect as “Pastor Solomon,” a combination of biblical prophet and pastor of his flock. As a former choir director and bishop emeritus in New York, he speaks with warmth and knowledge. The actors who portray Mary and Joseph in act one are enchanting. Without speaking parts, Carla Punch and Antonio Naranjo utilize body language and dance to express their exhaustion after the journey to Bethlehem, their fear when there is no room at the inn for Mary, and joy after the Child is born. And the music! Throughout the play there is a brilliant combination of traditional spirituals such as “Most Done Traveling” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain” with contemporary songs such as “Mercy Mercy Me” and “When Doves Cry,” along with new lyrics to popular melodies such as “Summertime” and “I’ll Take You There.” In keeping with previous years, the gospel play has a new script this season, along with new songs and new staging so as to showcase the wide-ranging talents of the artists. The Black Nativity is conceived and directed by Stanley E. Williams, with additional text by Andre C. Andree’ and Marc Paquette. Yvonne Cobbs-Bey is music director, and Pjay Phillips did the choreography. Bert van Aalsburg is stage manager, and Matthew Royce handles lighting design. Roland Pollard and Kenneth Little are on keyboards, and Davon Vigay plays drums. Costume design is by Rose Plant. Experiencing A Gospel Celebration of Christmas is recommended highly. A major corporation has underwritten family matinee prices for the run of the play. Further information is provided on the theatre’s Web site at POST A COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE | READ COMMENTS ON THIS ARTICLE | LEAVE A TRACKBACK This article was posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2007 at 5:00 pm and is filed under Theatre Reviews, Reviews, Issue 49.” - Jeanne Powell

Listen and Be Heard Weekly

Yvonne Cobbs-Bey Worship With Me Beydaz’l Records 2009 Hailing from the musically fertile Bay Area, Yvonne Cobbs-Bey is a gospel artist, songwriter, actor and also serves as choir director and youth department supervisor for Oakland’s Harmony Missionary Baptist Church, where Rev. A.L. Cobbs, Sr. is Pastor. Not long ago, she graced the stage of San Francisco’s Lorraine Hansberry Theater in a production of Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity, to favorable reviews. Last year, Cobbs-Bey released her third independently produced album, Worship With Me. The ten-track CD features praise and worship, contemporary and traditional selections. Her son, Davon Vigay, lays down the beat on several of the tracks and other family members assist, as well. She possesses a strong voice and a solid command of a song – what the biz used to call “selling a song.” She eases through the performance demands of each gospel style without altering her vocal approach. The traditional pieces on Worship With Me are the most soul-stirring, especially the bluesy “I’m Ready.” I was also intrigued by the album’s two distinctly different interpretations of the hymn, “Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah.” One version is presented in long meter form with piano accompaniment and what appears to be a multi-tracked Cobbs-Bey lining out with herself. The other (identified as “Guide Me”) is a pulse-pounding up-tempo version. While the studio-based Worship With Me is well done, Yvonne Cobbs-Bey is an artist whose style cries out to be captured in live church performance. Four of Five Stars gPod Picks: “I’m Ready,” “Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah.”” - Bob Marovich

Gospel Bog

Yvonne Cobbs-Bey from Pinole, California sang “Spirit of the Lord.” She is the viewers’ choice, chosen through the video she sent in via Internet. The judges commented that her energy level fell below that of the song. They were not convinced she took it to the next level, however they were certain that she gave a mediocre performance. Don’t believe the hype, Yvonne!” - Takiela Bynum

TV Review: The Gospel View-BET's Sunday Best

9/20/07 Dear Contestants, Congratulations, making it this far is an incredible accomplishment; I sincerely welcome you to our show, “Sunday Best”. I’d personally like to thank each and every one of you for participating in the show. I’m very excited to get you to Los Angeles. I’d like to assure everyone that this is going to be a fair and fun competition. As you know, this is our first season of “Sunday Best”, so please continue to be patient and flexible - we’re all in this together! Let’s jump right into the nuts and bolts of the show. Here’s how it works: we have 20 contestants total, but only one will be the Next Gospel Star. The winner will be crowned on the tenth and final episode.” - Brian Gadinsky

Sunday Best



The Black Voice News God Fearing Woman Makes Testimonial Singing Debut Date: Wednesday, December 14 @ 21:24:29 Topic: Religion “God’s Always There”, by Yvonne C. Cobbs-Bey CD’s in Stores December 15, 2005 Fontana “God’s Always There” by Yvonne C. Cobbs-Bey is a testament of love and devotion to God that combines original and traditional lyrics with contemporary compositions to create a unique and spirit filled gospel sound intended to show the way and awaken lost souls. Hailing from Oakland, CA Yvonne has directed Gospel Choirs for over 30 years and was awarded by the Bay Area Gospel Music Awards, the Director of the Year Award in 1999. “God’s Always There” is the first of many gospel CD productions planned to come from Yvonne C. Cobbs-Bey a multi-talented alto songstress. This CD project is built o­n a solid foundation of devotion to God, commitment to family, and a spirit of sharing how God has worked in her life. Yvonne C. Cobbs-Bey holds active membership at Harmony Missionary Baptist Church under Pastor A.L. Cobbs, Sr. in Oakland, CA. Yvonne continues to sing, write, and direct her church choir. Currently Yvonne is performing in the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre’s production of Black Nativity, in San Francisco. Yvonne is featured leading “Wasn’t that A Mighty Day”, in Act 1 and “Packing Up” in Act 2. Yvonne says, “I often prayed for guidance throughout this process. All the credit goes to God”. “God gave me the desire, ability, and understanding to share my experiences of HIS GREATNESS in my life”. “I am inspired by my family, Pastor Shirley Ceasar, and Dottie Peoples. My favorite scripture is: Philippians 4:13 - “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me”. This article comes from The Black Voice News The URL for this story is: op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=3937” - Fontana

black voice news

PAT CRAIG: THEATER 'Nativity' spreads gospel of good cheer By Pat Craig CONTRA COSTA TIMES Lorraine Hansberry Theatre's annual holiday production of "Black Nativity" has pretty much become the Bay Area's unofficial Christmas pageant. And deservedly so. Every year, director Stanley E. Williams gathers the most outstanding gospel music singers in the Bay Area and invites them to step into the theater for the holiday season. That would be enough -- the joyous tale of the first Christmas and the joyous noise of a mega-choir of top-notch gospel talent is plenty to start visions of sugar plums dancing through anyone's head. But Williams always finds a bit more to put in the show every year; little surprises that make regulars want to keep coming back, and those who think along the lines of an unredeemed Ebenezer Scrooge glow with at least a thimbleful of Christmas cheer. This year, Williams put Luther-Michael Spratt in a number called "No-Good Shepherd," with Kevin Austin, Linwood F. "Woody" Clark and Mark Richardson. The song is essentially about three tough shepherds picking on the little-guy shepherd (Spratt). The result is hilarious, and Spratt proves himself to be a delightfully funny comic actor. Black Nativity" is based on the Langston Hughes script that told the story of the birth of Christ from a black perspective, but after seeing the show for a number of years, you begin to suspect that it drifts further from the original annually. Here, though, the story remains constant -- the birth of Christ re-created in song and dance in two acts. The opening act is from the biblical era, and features classic Christmas songs including "Joy to the World," "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," along with a number of others, including compositions by Robin Hodge-Williams, principal artist in the production. Other featured singers include Faye Carol, Yvonne Cobbs-Bey, Clara McDaniel and Yolanda Cato Freeman. In the second act, the scene switches to modern times in a black church. This may be where the growing genius of the piece glows most. The singing is incredible, as is the narration by Andre C. Andree, who becomes the preacher in the second act and delivers the rousing, show-stopping tune/sermon "Leak in the Building." What makes the act so downright good, though, is what goes unsaid, as parishioners enter the church and take part in the services. All over the stage, tiny dramas unfold -- petty jealousies, plays for attention, primping and posturing to attract the opposite sex, and dozens of other vignettes that are as accurate as they are funny. The ladies, toting large scarves that are arranged demurely across their knees, and viewing the world from beneath enormous and elaborate church hats, speak volumes through posture and facial expression, never uttering a word. The men get their messages across, too, but hardly as dramatically as the women. Since the cast consists mainly of people who are active in church choirs, it's probably a good guess that much of what you see onstage originated in a sanctuary somewhere around the Bay, and was brought to the Sutter Street theater as a tiny Christmas gift. Pat Craig is the Times theater critic. Reach him at 925-945-4736 or THEATER REVIEW • WHAT: "Black Nativity," inspired by Langston Hughes • WHERE: Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 620 Sutter St., S.F. • WHEN: Thursdays-Sundays, through Dec. 24 • TIME: 2 hours • HOW MUCH: $25-$32 • CONTACT: 415-474-8800,” - Pat Craig

Contra Costa Times

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