In partnership with Apollo Theater, The Classical Theatre of Harlem presents the world premiere of The First Noel for the winter season. Performances will be from Dec 13-31, with previews Dec. 11-12.
Composer/lyricist Jason Michael Webb (Brooklyn Tabernacle, Motown: The Musical, Violet) and writer/lyricist Lelund Durond Thompson (CTH artistic associate and founder of YellaFella Entertainment) created the commissioned work over two years. The duo has re-imagined classic Christmas songs as well as created new melodies designed to become holiday favorites. The soundscape is a wonderland of disco, rock and gospel genres.
Performed in the 200-seat intimate Soundstage, the musical follows three generations of a Harlem family still affected by the tragic loss of a loved one. An unexpected visit from Grandma reveals some long-absent Christmas joy. It is a universal story about how a community is healed, one family at a time, as everyday people do extraordinary things to help one another receive the gift of love.
CTH artistic director Ty Jones has described it as “Dickens for the 21st Century.” With Equity principal auditions taking place in September, the cast has yet to be announced. In May, when Broadway Black reported the production as “bringing something fresh to the holiday season,” the excitement was much like that of Webb under the Apollo marquee.
Leading the artistic team is director Steve H. Broadnax III. Broadnax, an associate professor of theatre at Pennsylvania State University whose work has been featured at Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, also has showcased at The Kennedy Center with his award-winning The Hip Hop Project. The original play, which has toured nationally, was conceived, directed and choreographed by Broadnax.
Having opened its 15th anniversary season with a benefit concert featured the music of the Griffin Matthews–Matt Gould Witness Uganda (now titled Invisible Thread) at the Soundstage, CTH returns to the historic Harlem venue for its official debut.
Founded in 1999, CTH presents stories through the lens of the African Diaspora that honor the cultural legacy of the neighborhood in which it was founded. In a Theater Pizzazz interview, Jones notes CTH was in financial distress and lost the confidence of many supporters when he arrived in 2009. Now CTH has attracted major donors and has developed notable programming that reflects the diversity of ideas and racial tapestry that is America.
“We are part of the renovation of the community,” said Jones in his interview of the changes Harlem continues to experience. “We want to engage with the community.”
Tickets for The First Noel are on sale now HERE. Follow CTH at @classicalharlem.