The political dimension of the Nativity story, drawing on the themes of immigration and asylum, is to be screened by the BBC in the run up to Christmas.
Geoffrey Hughes, Cathy Tyson and Jennifer Ellison are amongst those who will star in the Liverpool Nativity – a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story live on the streets of Liverpool.
Far from being the simple story beloved of school plays throughout the world, the drama is billed as being "as fresh and relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago – the intimate, personal story of a pregnant young girl set against a backdrop of political tension and unrest."
Geoffrey Hughes leads the cast as the Angel Gabriel, directing events as they unfold live in Liverpool city centre.
Set in a fictional state, Herodia (Cathy Tyson), a paranoid minister, desperate to cling to power, orders a crackdown on immigration.
Mary and Joseph (Jodie McNee and Kenny Thompson) are swept up in the drama as Joseph, an asylum seeker, is instructed to report to the nearest passport office. In the midst of this turmoil, Mary discovers she is pregnant and must fight to protect both Joseph and her unborn child.
The hour-long production uses familiar songs from Liverpool's great pop legacy to bring the story to life. Popular music from a wealth of Liverpool bands – The Beatles, The La's, The Zutons and many more – is given a vibrant new twist and performed by characters in the drama and a live orchestra.
The production also features a host of Liverpool celebrities including Jennifer Ellison as an angel; Paul Barber as the landlord and Andrew Schofield as one of the shepherds.
BBC Three Controller, Danny Cohen says: "This is going to be a fantastic collaboration between the BBC and the city of Liverpool. I'm delighted with the cast in place, and can't wait to see this major event on BBC Three."
This mammoth production involves over 300 cast and 150 technical crew and will be the springboard for Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture 2008.
Liverpool Nativity has been developed by the team behind Manchester Passion and the two Flashmob operas and is supported by Liverpool Culture Company.
Written and developed by Liverpudlian Mark Davies Markham, it is executive produced by Sue Judd.
The Musical Director is Philip Sheppard, Professor of Cello at the Royal Academy of Music, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra will be performing on the night.
The Liverpool Nativity will be screened on Sunday 16 December at 8pm on BBC Three.