When baby Jesus called in sick, this Christmas pageant was saved by a visitor with parents from Nazareth
10-month-old Tala stepped into the role of a lifetime
It's one of those stories you can't make up.
The actor playing baby Jesus in a church's annual Christmas pageant was under the weather, and a 10-month-old baby happened to arrive early with her family to watch the show — just in time to step in as the understudy. And her parents were from Nazareth, no less.
"[The director] said 'baby Jesus called in sick today, what do you think?'" Anan Mazzawi, father of 10-month-old Tala, told CBC's Here and Now on Thursday.
On a recommendation from his brother, Mazzawi and his wife, Reem Shamshoum-Mazzawi, with daughters Tala and 5-year-old Noor, arrived early at the Church of the Holy Trinity beside the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto to watch the show.
The couple, who are originally from Nazareth, Jesus Christ's childhood town in Israel, were joking with an usher about Tala possibly being a part of the show.
"You doubt it because she was a baby girl, not a boy, and she has earrings," said Mazzawi.
But The Christmas Story's director, Susan Watson, gave Tala the role on the spot.
What happened when baby Jesus called in sick for the nativity play at Holy Trinity Church? Baby Tala was ready to take the stage. Oh, and her family is originally from Nazareth. We spoke to her proud parents about Tala's stage debut. <a href="https://t.co/NmPfNn5ZZT">https://t.co/NmPfNn5ZZT</a>—@CBCHereandNow
"[Susan] made it easy for me, she was there all the time," said Shamshoum-Mazzawi, who was with daughter Tala backstage before the show.
Tala was quickly fed a snack of mashed bananas, and her mom made sure there was a flashlight for her backstage because she "doesn't like the dark." With all those demands, clearly Tala was already getting used to stardom.
Shamshoum-Mazzawi wasn't able to watch the show, but from the wings she saw the performance play out by watching her husband's reaction.
"He had a big smile on his face," she said.
"It was amazing," said Mazzawi. "Tala was being comfortable looking around interacting with the other performers."
Tala is not the first artist in the family. Shamshoum-Mazzawi just finished her PhD in drama therapy, and back in Nazareth Tala's maternal grandparents run a theatre and dance troupe.
"It was very emotional thing for me because as a performer it was really beautiful to see my daughter on stage," said Shamshoum-Mazzawi. "I sent my mom some pictures at night and she was like, 'What happened? How was Tala on stage today?' It was a nice surprise."
Mazzawi said he documented the whole night, so that in the future Tala can tell the story of her magical first Christmas.
"It's with her forever."
With files from Here and Now