By the time the seasonal onslaught of festive decorations, Broadway shows featuring dancing elves, and performances of Christmas songs being owned by CeeLo Green motivated TheaterMania to get moving on its obligatory holiday-themed Dream Cast, A Christmas Story had already been made into a musical. The same was true of Elf and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and Love, Actually has too many characters to keep track of. So we decided to go old school. Really old school. Like, Sunday School old school, with The Bible's Nativity: The Musical.
The nativity is so obvious a pick for musicalization it's insane producers haven't ponied up sooner. Think of the possibilities: Dancing animals! Adorable babies! Relevant moral lessons! (Like book a hotel in advance, Broseph.) And it's not like Broadway isn't down with Jesus. Maybe you're familiar with that little-known rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, or the indie-hit musical Godspell, or the preppy guys over at Book of Mormon? The only part of the Bible commercial theater seems to have overlooked is Jesus' origin story...and it's epic. So sit back, pour some mulled cider into your goat-skin canteen, and let us all experience the age old holiday tradition of giving birth to a half-deity baby in a wheelbarrow, or something. (We apologize--half the staff is Jewish and one editor is agnostic, so "fact checking" is ongoing.)
Like all good dramatic religious happenings, we needed a proper da Vinci to illustrate this story for posterity. TheaterMania tapped awesome artist Lucy Knisley to make it look like the second coming.
God: Stephen Sondheim (Composer/Diety)
The gig: Um, God. Bearded guy. Maker of Heaven and Earth. Birth-father of Jesus.
The casting: Needs no explanation. We call him "Godheim."
Baby Jesus: Twan Baker (Annie)
The gig: Son of God, eventual founder of major religious movement. Manger aficionado and inventor of Jesus Sandals™.
The casting: After building a resume in regional theater (Into the Woods, Pregnancy Pact) and establishing his own Twitter account, this real-life prop baby is currently showing off his Broadway chops in Annie. Never cries on stage, immune to child labor laws—he's a doll! No, really, he's a doll.
Mary: Carolee Carmello (Scandalous, Mamma Mia!)
The gig: The Virgin Mary, blessed mother of Jesus. Largely considered Best Mother Ever, despite losing her 12-year-old son on a Passover road trip. Cue music.
The casting: Carmello's run as divine evangelical Amy Semple McPherson in Scandalous ended too soon, so we'd like to hire her to imbue this dream cast with the holy spirit. Would be heartbreaking and believable in the scene where she awkwardly has to tell Joseph he is NOT the father.
Joseph: Benjamin Walker (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof)
The gig: Mid-level carpenter, earthly father of Jesus. Like all men, didn't stop to ask for directions, so his kid was born in a barn.
The casting: The former Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson star would make one sexypants Joseph. His emo musical breakdown about his virgin wife being preggers would be biblical.
The Three Wisemen: Jackie Hoffman (Xanadu) as Balthazar; Ed Asner (Grace) as Gaspar; Mary Testa (Xanadu) as Melchior
The gig: Wise scholars sent to kill Baby Jesus. Trio follows Star of Bethlehem to, um, Bethlehem, have change of heart about baby-killing around intermission, show up to the party with sweet gifts for Baby J.
The casting: Asner is 83 (!) and by default the wisest dude on Broadway, and there's no show that can't benefit from Testa and Hoffman on stage together. Does anyone know if Asner can sing? If he can't, their three-part harmony will be three times better.
The Three Gifts: Will Swenson (Hair) as Gold; Gavin Creel (Hair) as Frankincense; and Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening) as Myrrh
The gig: Trio of birthday gifts for baby Jesus, delivered by The Three Wisemen. All utterly useless to babies, but it's the thought that counts, right?
The casting: You know you've wanted to see Swenson and Creel harmonizing together with Groff since ever. Swenson is an obvious choice for gold (who wouldn't want to melt him down and wear him as a necklace?), Creel has that frankincense-y hippie thing going on and offstage, and since Groff will never reprise his Spring Awakening role, this is as close as we'll ever get to seeing it again. (See what we did there? Testa's "Melchoir" carrying Groff? Groff was "Melchior" in Spring Awakening? Are you not entertained?!)
Ox: Anthony Warlow (Annie)
The gig: According to the annals of history, every nativity needs an ox. Big animal, likely a baritone. Unifies his fellow unhappy barnyard animals by singing throaty solo assuring them that if they have faith, something amazing will happen in boring old Bethlehem soon.
The casting: Annie's bull-headed Daddy Warbucks is on loan from Australia, and the idea of this broad-shouldered, pitch-perfect charmer disappearing down under after that show wraps breaks our heart. So, Warlow: we got your work visa right here! Now put on these ox horns.
Forlorn Camel: Steve Kazee (Once)
The gig: Every show with talking animals needs the equivalent of Winnie-the-Pooh's Eeyore, and this guy is it. Forlorn Camel sings sad songs to the Star of Bethlehem about needing something just as bright as she is to light up his lonely barn life. Must be able to play sad guitar and shed a single tear on cue.
The casting: Steve Kazee is Broadway's reigning Tony Award-winning man with a guitar. When Magi-gift Gold, aka Will Swenson, is carried into the barn—lighting up Forlorn Camel's life!—Kazee can launch right into "Gold" from Once, copyright infringement be damned.
Sassy Sheep: Roz Ryan (Scandalous)
The gig: Most nativities have lambs, because of baby metaphors and stuff. We have a full-grown sheep because we want a full-grown belt-off between our fluffy ruminant and her wise-cracking unrequited love, Donkey, about how boring life is in their sad little Bethlehem barn. Does any of this further the plot? Do you think we wrote a complete plot? Did you know they didn't finish writing The New [Mary] Testament? Okay then, moving on.
The Casting: As you can see in this video, Roz Ryan is ah-mazing. Undiluted entertainment, with a belt voice that will hold your father's pants up. We don't even need her to act, we just need her to be Roz Ryan in a sheep costume.
Donkey: Daniel Breaker (The Performers, Shrek)
The gig: The fourth in our quartet of barn animals. Cracks wise about how mundane barn life is, pre-baby deity arrival. Spends much of first act rejecting romantic advances from Sassy Sheep.
The Casting: Breaker. Shrek. Familiar with it?
Star of Bethlehem: Christine Ebersole (Grey Gardens)
The gig: The original Google Maps.
The casting: Clouds part. Lights up on Christine Ebersole's golden locks. Cue entrance applause.
Singing Harp: Christine Ebersole (also of Blithe Spirit)
The gig: You can't have cherubim without harp. It's a rule. Godheim loves harp! (See: Into the Woods, by Stephen Godheim.)
The casting: TheaterMania religiously double-casts Ebersole (Grey Gardens) in ev-er-y-thing. For Nativity, we imagine a Star on Harp one-woman-duet a la "Hey There" from The Pajama Game.
Angels/Cherubim: Spider-Man Stunt Doubles (Spider-Man: The Musical)
The gig: Angels. Must not pull focus from Godheim. Aerial work required.
The casting: This punch-line writes itself. MERRY HAPPY HANU-MAS ALL!