A new theatrical musical about the Nativity of Christ breaks new ground for the faith-based genre and could impact moviegoers in the same way that the Broadway hit Hamilton impacted audiences, says a Grammy-winning artist who has a key role in the project.
Christian hip hop artist Lecrae portrays the angel Gabriel in the new film Journey to Bethlehem, which opens in theaters Nov. 10 and is the first musical from Affirm Films, the same studio behind such movies as War Room and Miracles from Heaven. The film’s director is music producer Adam Anders of Glee fame.
Joel Smallbone of For King and Country portrays King Herod’s son, while Christian singer Moriah portrays a friend of Mary.
The film can be a tool for the Gospel, Lecrae said. Even non-Christians, he added, know the Christmas story.
“I look at what Hamilton did as far as the music and how impactful it was for culture. And I think of this in a similar fashion,” Lecrae told Christian Headlines. “This music is top tier, and the acting and the cinematography is just top tier. I want people to walk away saying, ‘What an amazing piece of art,’ but at the same time, ‘Wow, I never considered this perspective about the Nativity story.’”
Lecrae calls himself a fan of Anders, who received Grammy nominations in 2011 and 2012 for Glee and in 2013 for Rock of Ages. Anders produced music for such faith-based projects as The Passion (2016) and Son of God (2014).
The music, Lecrae said, is equal to that in popular mainstream musicals.
“It’s excellent. It’s breaking creative boundaries,” he said, referencing the faith genre. “But then also the cinematography is top tier. It’s on par with any major film that you’ve ever seen. The storyline, the writing — it’s just all done really, really well. And I think oftentimes, we have lower expectations on films like this because, you know, the budget may be lower. And generally speaking, we kind of give Christian films … a participation trophy for caring about the message, but this one earns real trophies for making a phenomenal film.”
Meanwhile, Lecrae said he was not handed the role. He had to try out for it.
“I auditioned. Adam liked the potential and offered me another audition,” Lecrae said. “And I said, ‘I’m not blowing this one.’ So I went and got an acting coach. … I had to earn it. It was a great opportunity.
Fiona Palomo (Outer Banks) portrays Mary. Oscar nominee Antonio Banderas plays Herod.
Lecrae added, laughing, “I’m not gonna sit next to Fiona [Palomo] and Antonio Banderas and just wing it — no way.”
Photo Courtesy: @Affirm. Used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
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