Stephanie Zimbalist , Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

Stephanie Zimbalist with her father, the late Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

Stephanie Zimbalist is following in the footsteps of her late father, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., taking the stage in the role of Narrator of the annual Solvang Nativity Pageant.

This is the 33rd year for the pageant, an elaborately staged production of the Nativity story, featuring live animals, dozens of actors, musical accompaniment and narration. All participants are volunteers.

Efrem and Stephanie's mother -- also named Stephanie -- were longtime Valley residents. He narrated the pageant for 18 years prior to his death in 2014.

"I saw it when Dad did it. It's a sweet, sweet thing. To be able to share God's message is the reason he did it," Stephanie said.

A local minister, Jack Hayford, stepped in as Narrator the last two years. Stephanie said she was delighted to finally be asked to take over the role.

After a successful acting career in film, television, and theater, Stephanie said she has "no interest" in it anymore. That's especially true of movies and TV, which she said she doesn't even watch.

"I'm just trying to figure out where I'm meant to be these days," she said. Fortunately for pageant organizers, that includes living part time in the Valley in the house she inherited from her parents.

Stephanie will be joined in the pageant by a lineup of professional musicians, most notably tenor Eduardo Villa, who has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Paris Opera and many other major companies. The pageant is directed by Janette Swanon. Lawrence Skahill is music director.

Solvang Nativity Pageant will be presented at 5 and 7 p.m. Saturday at Solvang Festival Theater. Admission is free, and it's first-come, first-seated. Gates open at 4 p.m. for preshow activities, including a jazz band, petting zoo, prayer tent and food court.

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