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In a theater larger than the most cavernous Broadway playhouse, Evangel Cathedral is presenting its annual Christmas play. The church, based in Upper Marlboro, Md., is one of the region's largest Black congregations. Over the past 21 years, the production has grown from a cast of 20, to more than 200.
It started off as a story about a family celebrating Christmas, says Pastor Peyton Gray. But now, he says, "it has grown from a church putting on a local play, to a national, full blown event."
The budget is reported in the high hundreds of thousands, a large slice of which goes to pay eight gospel singers, including Grammy winners BeBe Winans, CeCe Winans, and Fred Hammond.
Another major cost is the barnyard of live animals--including three camels--that act in each performance. The animals are professionals, working the rest of the year on Hollywood films.
Tickets for the show cost between $65 and $85 a seat, though you can sit in the back for $65. Sounds like a lot for a church play, Pastor Gray acknowledges, "but you have to remember" he says, "there's a segment of people who want really good Christian entertainment." Plus, he adds, this isn't your average church play.
[Music: "Santa's Got a Bag of Soul" by Soul Saints Orchestra from In the Christmas Groove / "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" by Big Rhythm Band from A Swingin' Christmas]
MC: Evangel Cathedral's Christmas Celebration