The North Star: An Urban Nativity

A modern-day Mary and Joseph face doubt, violence and, ultimately, acceptance from believers in The North Star: An Urban Nativity, running for one night at the Ensemble Theatre. Written by Ekundayo Bandele and adapted here by Bandele and Eileen Morris, the artistic director of the Ensemble, North Star is set in contemporary Bethlehem. Instead of a manger, Mary and Joseph take refuge in a tenement building; instead of the Angel Gabriel, the building’s landlord foretells their newborn child’s destiny. There’s no King Herod hunting for the baby Jesus in North Star; instead it’s a criminal kingpin who wants to eliminate any hope for the residents of Bethlehem.

Directed by Morris, North Star is brimming with popular music. There’s “Boogie Wonderland,” the Earth, Wind & Fire R&B song rearranged in the style of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” and a jazzed-up version of “We Three Kings.” A couple of country and western tunes make it into the score with Tim McGraw’s “Mary and Joseph” and Taylor Swift’s “Mary’s Song.” Gospel tunes include Marvin Winans and Andraé Crouch’s “Let the Church Say Amen” and Whitney Houston’s version of “Joy to the World” from The Preacher’s Wife. Cast members for The North Star include LaShanna Leonard, Samantha West and Werner Richmond (Richmond and Adrian Washington also recorded the soundtrack). The North Star is the first work by Ekundayo Bandele to be performed by the Ensemble Theatre, but Morris and company are already in talks with the playwright to produce another of his plays.

7:30 p.m. 3535 Main. For information, call 713-520-0055 or visit ensemblehouston.com. $25.
Tue., Dec. 23, 7:30 p.m., 2014

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Olivia Flores Alvarez