Arts & Entertainment

Tri-Cities performing arts groups join forces to bring nativity story to the stage

Performers prepare for ‘The First Nowell.’
Performers prepare for ‘The First Nowell.’ Courtesy of Mid-Columbia Mastersingers

Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and wise men, the baby Jesus.

This time of year, stagings of the nativity story abound – from modest productions to grander events.

But a particularly special one is coming to Richland next week.

Mid-Columbia Mastersingers and the Richland Players – two of the area’s premier performing arts groups – are putting on “The First Nowell.”

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14-15 and 3 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Players theater, 608 The Parkway.

The one-act musical nativity play blends acting and singing, with more than a dozen actors and about 60 choir members bringing the story of the Jesus’ birth to the stage.

A chamber orchestra and the Mastersingers’ youth choirs also will lend their talents.

“It’s a story many people are familiar with. Whether you are a believer or not, it’s a story that’s synonymous with the season,” said Justin Raffa, Mastersingers artistic director.

With the show, “we’re trying to tell it in a slightly different way – focusing on community and what it means to build community,” he said.

“The First Nowell” – “nowell” is the Old English way of spelling “noel” – was written by the 20th century British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

It’s set in Victorian England, centering on a group of strangers who come together to tell the Christmas story.

Like the nativity story, the music will be familiar – beloved Christmas carols, from “The First Noel” to “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

“It will be a really wonderful program,” Raffa said. “I think people will be very happy with it.”

Megan Johnson is the stage director.

The acting cast includes Jerry Bush, David Rommereim, Elizabeth Andersen, Kimber Keel, Davin Jameson, Joyce Bean, Rebecca Francik, Dianne Hudson, William Henry, Arlo McGowan, Joe Francik, Kaneisha Castillo, Hannah Evans, Katie Evans, Hank Johnson and Kate Johnson.

Vocal soloists are Paris Rodgers and Steven Slusher.

Raffa and Johnson will give a “Behind the Music” a half-hour before each performance.

Tickets to “The First Nowell” are $25 for adults and free for K-12 students.

They’re available at or by calling 509-460-1766.