Archikulture Digest

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

By Barbara Robinson

Directed by Wade Hare

Starring Sharon Barbour Tedder, Russell Trahan, McKenzie Giles

Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL</strong>

If a bit of chaos can improve the charm of a children’s Christmas pageant, then the Herdman family is the gift that keeps on giving. Ms. Armstrong (YaDonna Russell) owned this pageant for years until she breaks a leg. This is normally considered good luck on stage, but not for backup director Grace Bradly (Tedder) who now gets the full brunt of the Herdmans: they’re the school bullies and if the church offers free dessert they have no qualms about hijacking all the good roles in the Christmas pageant. With the Herdmans on board everyone else cowers and even Grace’s hubby Bob “Do I Have To Go?” Bradley (Trahan) gets sucked into the maelstrom. But everything works out in the end; the Herdmans discover their nicer side although their advice to Mary and Joseph isn’t all that Christian. They demand to speak to Herod but that’s a whole ‘nother show. Still, the Herdman clan does discover their nicer side and as they pick up some Judeo-Christian doctrine and we learn that it’s possible for even professional sinners to act nice. It’s always the biggest pagans who become the most energetic believers.

There are 28 people on this crowded stage, and most of them are a long way from driver’s licenses. The wildest yet most crowd pleasing was Gladys Herdman (Zofia Miller): with her energetic cry of “Shazaam!” she was the feral child that needed no acting lessons. My favorite was Mrs. Armstrong as the sassy church lady; she said all the things we want to hear but no one dare speak. A close second in the truthy department was little Charlie Bradley (Jason Zavits), he points out the best thing about church was no Herdmans. God may forgive all, but it’s still a pain living under the control of the local shakedown ring. Perky Bob Bradley was everyone’s favorite populuxe dad; he dodges most of the real trouble and always keeps his calm.

In a holiday season dripping with cheerful ghosts and plastic fireplaces it’s nice to see a program that counterbalances the icky sweet with the realities of tough kids from the wrong side of the tracks. No holiday is ever perfect, and you shouldn’t feel bad if a few things misfire. I hear the Fire Department guys are very nice, and just remember – everyone remembers a disaster. It’s from smoke and broken glass that true are holiday memories made.

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