I know what you’re thinking: Christmas in July? Well, if you’re going to perform a retelling of the Nativity entitled Misconception: The Lost Gospel of Christmas, you might as well do it at an unconventional time of year.
Still, I was skeptical, right up until Mary (Andrea Collins) was referred to as “Jehovah’s one night stand” during the opening number, “Baby Daddy”, and the chorus turned into a stunning gospel choir. From then on, Mark Swanson’s hysterical lyrics, full of innuendo and biblical puns, matched with an electrifying pit (dubbed the “Baby Daddy Band”) swept me and the rest of the audience away into a show that was not unlike a mash-up of Rocky Horror and Christmas.
Swanson makes some edits to the biblical story, however. The three magi (played by Michael Fortino, Nick Brush, and Keith Manasco) are less a trio of wise men and more the party rockers of the ancient world, while Lucifer (played by the unforgettable Ernie Williamson) appears to Herod (Brandon Brune) as a literal devil’s advocate in leather and chains, convincing him to slaughter all the newborns in Israel.
Misconception: The Lost Gospel of Christmas
by Mark Swanson
at Studio Theatre – Stage 4
1501 14th Street NW
Washington, DC, 20005
Details and tickets
While the show feels more like an operetta, with very little dialogue to connect the musical numbers, the numbers themselves are more than compelling enough to tell the story, giving a lot of attention to Joseph (Sean Prouty), a major character pretty much ignored in most accounts of the Nativity. Misconception’s Joseph is completely aware of the rumors surrounding Mary, and even has his own doubts, particularly when the three kings (of orient are) appear on the scene, each claiming to be the father.
Eventually, however, in a brilliant number entitled “Cooler Than Me”, Joseph finds a way to reconcile with his own fears and his frustration about the situation (even referring to God as a “deadbeat dad”).
But the show isn’t all fun and games — the mothers of Bethlehem get their own spotlight following the murder of their children by Herod’s soldiers. It’s a heartbreaking number that calls into focus the sacrifice thousands of mothers made to protect one child, a child who would later grow up to sacrifice himself for them in return.
The show wraps up with a message from the angel Gabriel (Melissa Canas) that we can all get behind — no matter what you believe, the most important and beautiful thing we can do is love one another.
Yes, even the three kings.