Hip Shot: Misconception: The Lost Gospel of Christmas
Studio Theatre – Stage 4
Tuesday, July 16, 9 p.m.
Thursday, July 18, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 20, 4:45 p.m.
Sunday, July 21, 4:30 p.m.
They Say: "Mary has a problem: She's pregnant and no one believes Jehovah popped her celestial cherry. Her husband, Joseph, receives a serious beat-down from Three Wise Men convinced they are the father of Mary's baby. Who is that Baby Daddy?"
Brett's Take: You know the old joke. Mary, future mother of Jesus, sleeps with some cute shepherd or something, and gets knocked up. Joseph comes to her all mad about it, and she goes, "Uh. It was God!" You've probably heard somebody tell it better, but unless you've already seen Misconception: The Lost Gospel of Christmas, I doubt you've heard the joke turned into a musical.
Nor have you probably seen the implications of the joke explored in a serious way. Just what might life have really been like for Joseph (portrayed as a devoted doofus by Sean Prouty) and Mary (appropriately beatific Andrea Collins), pregnant with a child conceived out of wedlock in a society that, as the show's second song, "Village Whore," helpfully reminds us, regularly stones such women to death?
Misconception tries to have it at least four different ways. It wants to humanize some characters, like the parents of Jesus and the mothers of Bethlehem whose sons were killed in the Massacre of the Innocents. It wants to take an irreverent and funny look at others, portraying Kaspar (Michael Fortino), Balthazar (Nick Brush), and Melchior (Keith Manasco) as a trio of lechers who just want to "get freaky" and may or may not have had a foursome with Mary at a party. It wants to be honestly worshipful—the show, which originated in Georgia, is produced by genuine believers doing the Lord's work—when playing Lucifer's (Ernie Williamson) temptation of Herod (Brandon Brune) toward genocide as a straight morality tale.
Lastly, and most succesfully, it wants to show off the songwriting of Mark Swanson, which is excellent. The best songs, such as the sort of gospel-inflected "Baby Daddy" its jokey hip-hop asides and the sweetly harmonized funk come-on of "We Three Kings," remained lodged in my head. The entire cast sings so utterly beautifully, it's a blessing that, save for a few moments when the Evangelist (Jim Jurgens) reads us a Bible verse for context, the show is sung-through, with 16 lovely tunes for us to hear.
See it if: You want to hear well-written music sung very well.
Skip it if: You want to think deeply on the Bible stories, or to laugh frequently, or to have a religious experience.