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Black Nativity: A Holiday Celebration, the Grandel Theatre, closes December 18 

Black Nativity: A Holiday Celebration Conceived and directed by Ron Himes, Black Nativity is the Black Rep's gift to the community. Clocking in just shy of three hours, the gift is a tad too extravagant, but given the cast's indefatigable energy level, it'd be rude to carp. The first act retells the birth of Christ through gospel, traditional African folk music, a bit of blues and hip-hop and modern dance; Act Two has the ensemble belting forth 27 Christmas carols in a carousel-like whirl. You're likely to flag somewhere around song nineteen, but the cast never loses steam. Au contraire: "Twelve Days of Christmas," with its intentionally botched solos, one-upmanship and crowd participation (a never-fail combo if ever there was one), will perk you right up for the run to the finish. It's unfair to single out performers from such a cohesive and talented group, but it would be unforgivable to not mention Herman Gordon's glorious ascent through "What Will You Bring the King?" The song's refrain would test the powers of any singer's pipes, but Gordon scales its peaks in masterful fashion. Kudos too to the house band and musical director Kyle Kelly. Through December 18 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $40 to $47. Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org. — Paul Friswold

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