- Christmas pageants are a common phenomenon in elementary
probably all remember if we were an angel, a shepherd, a wise
man or got the very privileged role as Joseph or Mary.
we were in one or just watched our friends, we’ve probably
all been exposed to one or more of them.
Stage has brought back “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,”
last performed in 2009, but over its 23-year history, it has
delighted audiences seven times.
on the book by the same name, authored by Barbara Robinson,
the story is set in the ‘80s with the customs of ripped
jeans, hairbands, neon clothing, and rock musical rhythms.
Allusions to the music and the culture of that decade
pervade the show, providing humor for many adults in the
audience. The kids respond more to the color, noise and the
shenanigans of the narrative. Bullying, backstabbing,
competition, jealousy - some of the problems every kid
encounters - all arise here. Luckily, some of these negatives
turn to positives before the story ends.
Herdman family provides the drama in this narrative. Their
reputation for breaking all the societal rules is a noticeable
canker in the town, and when they learn that there are free
refreshments at church, they decide to stop by. As a result,
they audition for the Christmas pageant. A dilemma lurks.
the usual director, Helen Armstrong, broke her leg, Grace
Bradley is asked to fill in. Little did she and her reluctant
husband realize what they were in for when they offered to
help out in the crisis. Uncooperative kids, unpredictable
behavior on the part of the Herdmans, a bossy director giving
orders from her hospital bed, a pastor who is trying to
maintain the good graces of his parishioners, reluctance on
the part of the usual participants - all combine to create
stress and chaos.
the performance finally materializes, the surprises multiply.
Wonderful choreography characterizes the dances of the
shepherds, angels and wise men, all of whom manage to wow the
packed church. Natalia Haworth, who played Imogene Herdman,
delivered a stunningly reverent “Silent Night” in her role
as Mary in the pageant.
Stiverson also provided some laughs as Angel Gabriel. Mallorey
Wallace was an effective narrator, and the huge cast of 35
children was a joy to watch.
roles were well rendered by Gladys Chmiel, the dictatorial
director; Niffer Clarke, the kind and brave substitute; Todd
Denning, the reluctantly helpful
Libby Amato, the exercise and singalong guru.
of all ages will enjoy it on different levels.
by Jeff Schaetzke, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” runs
through Dec. 29 at the Todd Wehr Theater at the Marcus Center
for the Performing Arts, 929 N. Water St., Milwaukee. For show
times and tickets, call 414-273-7206 or visit www.firststage.org