The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
By Barbara Robinson
Directed by Tara Corless
Starring Juli Goldstone, Tim Wiley, Sydney Adams-Farley
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

First rule of kid-heavy community theatre – there’s no way to get twenty kids on or off stage without a “herd of cattle” sound effect. And if they’re all under high school age, you have to go with whatever happens: if they get their lines out, you can’t really pick on the delivery. It’s the Holiday Pageant season and the overachieving school maven Mrs. Armstrong (Jaimz Dillman) busts a leg leaving the brutal details of the Nativity stage show to unprepared Grace (Goldstone) and her reluctant hubby Bob (Tim Wiley). Normally this project would be a breeze, but someone told the demonic Herdman Clan about the free desserts at church. They descend on the casting call like Egyptians after a revolution and steal all the sexy roles: rapper babe Imogene (Gabriella Rivera) cops Mother Mary’s roll, Satanic little Gladys (Maia Goldstone) is the anti-Angel of the Lord while smirking Ralph (Max Gold stone) hijacked the role of hapless Joseph. Grace is unable to control the Herdman kids; they’re singularly unversed in Christian doctrine, child care or The Method. You’re ready to strangle them by intermission, but they redeem themselves in the final act: Imogene gets some insight in to the whole motherhood process, puts on her symbolically blue head scarf, and saves the evening despite the fire in the kitchen, the cigars in the girl’s room, and the touch football game they all play with the baby Jesus.

The Herdman troupe really felt evil, I grew up around a similar large family of thugs at school and I’m sympathetic to the central conceit of the story. There was a whole bunch of gloating on stage, all the kids were clearly having fun even as the Herdmans stripped little Dawson during “Little Drummer Boy”. I’m pretty sure Ms. Armstrong was having us on with her flattish “Merry Little Christmas,” and Max Goldstone seemed too happy to be truly evil. But despite the flaws, this was a genuinely moving piece, offering up the hope that the season can really transform the curmudgeonly and brutal.

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