Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Act One

The Virgin Mary is onstage with her newborn son, as well as the three wise men, the three shepherds and her husband, Joseph. They have just witnessed the birth of the child who was conceived by a virgin. This moment had been prophesied and it was a miracle ("Prophesies/Praise"). Gabriel the Angel appears above, and everyone but Mary fades away to leave them alone. Gabriel gives Mary a blessing and, in return, she sings her praise of God and the gift that He has given her ("Magnificat").

Joseph appears as Gabriel disappears. It is months earlier, when Mary has first discovered that she is pregnant. She reveals this to Joseph, who is angry and hurt. He wants to know who the father is, since he knows that it is not him. He does not know how they can get married if she is having another man's baby. He worries about what other people will say. It is already the talk of all of their neighbors. Gabriel appears to Joseph and explains that Mary has been chosen to give birth to the Lord, and that he is to be called Jesus. Joseph should still take Mary as his wife, raise Jesus and know that he has been a good man ("Don't Be Afraid"). Joseph accepts it and takes Mary in his arms. They are fearful, but she tells him that they must simply believe. Mary explains that they only need put their faith in God and accept this miracle, that he has chosen them wisely ("Open Your Heart"). Gabriel is pleased and says that they will raise the King of the Jews. As he says this, Herod appears. He laughs and calls this statement nonsense; he is King of the Jews. A scene takes place that is not chronological but establishes Herod and his position. He was appointed King of the Jews by Rome, despite not even being a Jew himself. He has spent his life trying to maintain peace in that region between Persia and Rome ("This Is Herod!"). He has been ruthless and even murdered his own wife and mother-in-law, since they tried to oppose him, but he always dreamed of being king and what that meant ("To Be a King").

The three wise men appear. They are astrologers in far-away Persia, meeting to discuss their new discoveries – the planets are aligning, and a new star, brighter than they have ever seen, has appeared. They must follow this star and find their way to where this miraculous birth will happen, which they have predicted ("Follow the Star"). The scene cuts back to Mary, who is now clearly pregnant. Herod is giving over a decree from Caesar Augustus: All people in Judea are to declare their particulars, wages, etc., and will be taxed. Joseph realizes that there is no way to fight this and that despite his being so poor, he will be taxed on his wife and soon-to-be-born child; finally, they must make the long journey to Bethlehem ("Caesar's Decree, Useless Then to Argue, Going to Be Taxed"). The journey has taken its toll on Mary and she passes out as Joseph is interviewed and pays his taxes. With Mary barely able to stand, they make their way to the inn, which is fully booked. The innkeeper feels for them and allows them to spend the night in the stable ("Mary Barely Conscious"). Joseph assures Mary that he is there to support her and be strong for her ("With You").

The wise men have arrived in Jerusalem and are before Herod. They tell him why they are there, but Herod insists that he is the king. They tell him of the birth of a new, and the greatest, king. He recalls an earlier prophecy and points them toward Bethlehem, but he makes sure to instruct them to return and report back to him, feigning happiness and claiming a desire to worship this new king, as well. The scene then cuts back to Bethlehem, where the shepherds are on a hillside. They reminisce of what life was like before the Romans had occupied their land. Two of them try to go to sleep while the third stays awake and on his watch ("Counting Sheep"). As they nod off, a light in the sky begins to grow brighter and brighter before them. The growing light reveals Gabriel to the shepherds, and he tells them not to be afraid, that God is with them. He tells them to follow and to come worship their new king ("Don't Be Afraid – Reprise"). They worry that they will not know where to find him, but they must go nonetheless. Gabriel reappears and leads them, along with many others ("Come All Ye Faithful"). All have gathered at the manger to witness the birth. The shepherds and wise men give Mary and Joseph their gifts and marvel in what a wonderful welcome this is for their king ("Silent Night / What a Way to Welcome Him").

Act Two

The entire cast, sans Herod, sings joyfully and rejoices in the Christmas Story ("Ding Dong Merrily on High / Glory Glory!"). Herod disrupts the singing and wonders at the whereabouts of the three wise men. The wise men are discussing what they should tell Herod. They worry about the repercussions if they tell him of the birth. Gabriel watches over and tries to steer their conversation. Herod is sure that the birth did not happen and that he has nothing to worry about. The wise men decide that the best thing to do is to return home without giving word to Herod. They reason that he will assume that they did not find what they were looking for and retreated. Just to be sure, Herod sends his henchmen out to find the wise men and bring them back to him... and if they find this king, to bring him back, as well. The henchmen find that the wise men are long gone and that Mary and Joseph have brought their child to the temple in Jerusalem to be blessed by Simeon, the high priest. Simeon blesses the child and realizes that he is the Messiah. Simeon can now die peacefully, knowing that this child has been born. Herod's spies rush in as Gabriel leads Mary and Joseph away. They try to discover the child's whereabouts from Simeon, but he tells them nothing and dies peacefully ("Herod's Henchmen Hurry, The Blessing, Nunc Dimittis / Peacefully").

Some time has passed, and Mary sits singing to Jesus. She promises to care for him until he is grown ("I Will Watch You Grow"). Joseph tells Mary that he thinks they should stay in Bethlehem. As they discuss this, the Innkeeper's Wife rushes in and tries to push them out. She tells them that her husband has been seized for questioning and that she has heard all sorts of stories of Persian spies and a baby. Herod learns the truth from the Innkeeper, including that this child is gone. In a rage, Herod decrees that all male babies under the age of two are to be killed. Mary tried to appeal to God, wondering why he puts them through such suffering and pain ("What Game Are You Playing, Lord?"). Gabriel appears to Mary and Joseph, telling them that they must flee to Egypt for the safety of their son.

Time lapses as they flee and Herod's men kill the baby boys. The montage ends with Herod himself dying, years later ("Off to Egypt"). Gabriel comes to the Holy family in Egypt and tells them that it is now safe to return home. Everyone gathers to sing of hope for the future. They sing of love and understanding and of a bright future ("Make a New Tomorrow").