First-ever modern musical of the Nativity coming to theaters: ‘It stays faithful to God’s story’

Journey to Bethlehem movie cover, 2023 | Journey to Bethlehem movie

Both mainstream and Christian entertainers are lending their talents to the first-ever theatrical musical of the Nativity, titled “Journey to Bethlehem.”

On Nov. 10, the Sony/AFFIRM films movie will present a new rendition of the story of Jesus' birth featuring pop songs and modern themes.

Filmed in Spain, actor Antonio Banderas stars as King Herod; for King & Country singer Joel Smallbone plays King Herod’s son; rapper Lecrae portrays the angel Gabriel; Milo Manheim plays Joseph, and “Outer Banks” actress Fiona Palomo stars as Mary.

“This is the story that turned B.C. to A.D. Everything changed with the birth of Jesus,” Smallbone says in a new clip titled, "The Heart of 'Journey to Bethlehem.'" 

“The nativity story is sort of a musical at the heart of it,” he says. “These angels show up and they're singing to the shepherds.”

Lecrae adds, “It's a story that's been important for thousands of years. It needs to be told and retold. What an amazing opportunity to be the first musical offering of a story this significant.” 

In a recent interview with The Christian Post, Lecrae said he departed from his typical musical style and “had to use the singing chops” for the movie. “I had to take acting lessons. They didn't have me singing way out of my range. It was a phenomenal experience. I really enjoyed acting.”

According to the project's description, the musical “weaves classic Christmas melodies into new pop songs in a music-infused retelling of the timeless story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus.”

Banderas, who plays the evil King Herod, revealed that he really enjoyed the role. 

“The character that I play is fun, scary, and he's cruel and he's tough,” Banderas says in the clip. He describes his character as “a man that smells the change in the air."

"Something's going to happen that is going to affect the world in which he feels everybody should live. Something is happening. Somebody's coming that's gonna change that,” he added.

The film is directed by Adam Anders (“Glee,” “High School Musical,” “The Passion”), who teamed up with Peter Barsocchini to write the script. The music was composed by Nikki Anders (“Glee," “High School Musical”) and Peer Astrom. 

Producer Alan Powell (“A Week Away”) said from the very beginning, creators wanted to tell a story about “the fact that God has bigger plans for us than even we have for ourselves. I hope that at the end of the fun and the music they are reminded of that truth.”

Lecrae added that the musical stays true to the biblical account of the first Christmas. 

“People will experience the journey of Mary, this young girl who has the weight of the world on her shoulders, just a unique vantage point in perspective that really does stay faithful to God's story, but at the same time adds so much color,” the Grammy Award-winner said. 

Rich Peluso of Affirm Films echoed those sentiments. 

“We're telling an important story with a turn of value, but we're having a lot of fun doing it with this music and dance that pierces through defenses in hearing the story and opens hearts and minds up to hear it fully,” Peluso concluded. 

“Journey to Bethlehem” will be in theaters nationwide on Nov. 10.

Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic

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