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Gospel Truth 

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Karamu Theatre pays tribute to a longtime mentor tonight as the curtain rises for Langston Hughes' gospel musical, Black Nativity. And director Terence Greene doles out the accolades to artistic director Mike Malone, who died earlier this year after leaving a legacy that included introducing the show to Cleveland audiences in 1979. "He was a taskmaster, just as I am now. He was such a perfectionist, yet his spirit brought forth your best qualities. He has been the main influence for many theater careers," says Greene, who's directing this year's performance after donning angel wings for it two decades ago as a cast member. The musical is based on the Gospel of St. Luke, focusing on the birth of Jesus Christ to Joseph and Mary. The narrative segues from dialogue to pantomime to folk spirituals before it crescendos with Mary's labor contractions. Actors from the Cleveland School of the Arts make up most of the cast. "I've danced in New York City, and I can honestly say that many of my kids are ready for Broadway. They're that good," says Greene. "The staging, music, singing, choreography — it's gotta be tight. The show has to be better than before, every single year." Black Nativity is at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Sunday, December 30, at Karamu's Jelliffe Theatre, 2355 East 89th Street. Tickets are $20 to $30. Call 216-795-7070 or visit www.karamu.com.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 3 p.m. Starts: Dec. 8. Continues through Dec. 30, 2007

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