For four nights only, the Opportunity Village’s Ralph & Betty Engelstad Campus is set to be transformed into a mini Jerusalem to bring good tidings of great joy this holiday season.
The Las Vegas Redrock Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a collection of Summerlin congregations, plans to host “The Nativity” at 6 p.m. Dec. 11, 6 and 7 p.m. Dec. 12 and 6, 7 and 8 p.m. Dec. 13-14 at the campus, 6050 S. Buffalo Drive.
“It places your focus where it should be on Christmas, and that’s on the birth of our savior,” said Kam Brian, who plays Joseph. “That’s the whole reason Christmas exists. It brings you back to what really matters.”
The event includes more than 100 cast members who act out 17 excerpts from Luke 2 in the King James Bible.
“The cast members have no lines because it’s all narrated,” said Nathan Jones, “The Nativity” spokesman. “It’s a very simple retelling. The hope is that people will capture the basic feeling of the nativity.”
About 300 to 400 people volunteer time, expertise and supplies to put on the production, according to Jones.
“All this is hosted as a free gift to the community,” Jones said. “No one’s looking to make money or get notoriety or anything like that.”
Every year, the production uses live goats, burros and sheep and casts a 1- or 2-month-old baby to play Jesus.
“I’ve taken my kids to see Santa Claus at the mall, and it’s every bit of that and then some seeing the baby Jesus,” Brian said. “The kind of wonder and awe in the faces of the children is by far the best experience of the season for me.”
The group expects between 10,000 and 12,000 attendees this month.
“It’s hard to estimate (the number of attendees) because we don’t give out tickets,” Jones said, “but we work really hard not to turn anyone away.”
According to Brian, the cast has hosted last-minute performances for attendees who were late or could not be seated in the last showing.
“We’ve had kind of impromptu performances where everyone has agreed to do another showing,” Brian said. “We try not to turn away anyone who has made the effort to come out.”
The group partnered with Opportunity Village about four years ago to use its outdoor amphitheater, according to Jones.
“As a Christian group, we really strive to (model) our lives after Jesus. He said to lift the hands of those who hang down,” Jones said. “Opportunity Village is just a wonderful example of doing that, of helping a group that is really so deserving of assistance.”
Although the production is based on the Bible, the group encourages people of all faiths and beliefs to attend.
“One of the ladies who is particularly helpful is Jewish,” Brian said. “It’s mostly a community event than a (Christian) event.”
“The Nativity” takes about six months of preparation and two months of rehearsal. Brian, who has played Joseph for four years, typically starts growing out his hair and beard at the end of October.
“We’re not historians, but we try to make something true to the original message and purpose of Christmas,” Jones said. “For the cast members to want to grow out their hair and beards, there’s a lot of preparation and forethought that goes into it.”
According to Jones, the intimacy of the set draws the audience into the production and makes them feel like they are bystanders of “The Nativity.”
“It’s the highlight of the Christmas season,” Jones said. “The world switches off for just 20 minutes, and you’re transported to a very special place.”
A Spanish viewing of “The Nativity” is planned for 7 p.m. Dec. 11. For more information, visit thenativitylv.com.
Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0403.