This weekend I was blessed to get to see The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and Cumberland County Playhouse. It’s a little early for me, considering I usually try to put off all Christmas themed things until after Thanksgiving, but this show was so wonderful that I’m running around with Christmas carols stuck in my head today…and I’m perfectly okay with that.
One of the best things about the Cumberland County Playhouse is their education department. They have a wonderful department and do several shows a year for the children. Most of these shows they double or triple cast to let as many children as possible have roles. I admire CCP for allowing the children to get the taste of being in theatre. The have a “red,” “blue,” and “green” cast for this show. I sought out the “green” cast since a classmate of my younger sister was in the “green” cast.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is what I like to call a play with music rather than a musical. Instead of setting a story to music, this show uses Christmas music at the beginning to set the mood and at the end during the Christmas pageant the kids put on. Throughout the rest of the show there is little to no music at all. Directed by Weslie Webster, this show is perfect thing to get the Christmas spirit going.
The show begins with the entire cast performing several Christmas carols. Being the huge sap that I am, I cried a little. Christmas music makes me cry regularly, and then add to that around 40 people (most of them children) all singing together…yeah, bring on the waterworks.
Bob and Grace Bradley, and their children Beth and Charlie, begin the actual story part of the show arguing about the church Christmas pageant. Grace is insisting that Beth and Charlie be in the show, and that Bob attend, although all of them are fighting it. Bob, played by Greg Pendzick, prefers to stay at home in his bathrobe watching football. Beth and Charlie, played by Molly McKinney and Malachi Banegas, prefer to avoid their overbearing pageant director Mrs. Armstrong, played by Carol Irving.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Armstrong is sidelined by a broken leg and Grace, played by Lindy Pendzick, is roped into directing this year’s Christmas pageant. However, local hoodlum children, the Herdmans, find out that there are refreshments at church and suddenly start to show up. These local bully children have all of the children (and most of the adults) in the neighborhood terrified of them.
The Herdmans have a classically “bad” home life. They talk freely about welfare and child protective services being around. They fight each other, bully the other children, and smoke cigars. Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Molly, and Gladys Herdman certainly add flavor to the practices. And through their bullying tactics, Ralph and Imogene, played by Chaz Sanders and Allie Crain, end up filling the roles of Joseph and Mary in the pageant. Gladys, played perfectly by Emery Smith, ends up being the Angel of the Lord and adds a little….flair to the role. The other Herdman children, Leroy, Claude and Molly, played by Isaiah Banegas, Jacoby Copeland, and Perrianna Evans, become Wise Men.
Needless to say, disaster after disaster happen, right up to the end, including the fire department being called during the final dress rehearsal. In the end, of course, there are some touching moments that show that the Herdman children may have actually been paying attention, and the members of the church congregation learn a lesson about loving people and teaching kindness. While the pageant doesn’t go exactly as planned, the lesson is there, and even more of a special lesson is learned by the congregation by watching the Herdman children learn their lesson.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is heartwarming from start to finish, and done very well. The children are adorable and the story is one to help bring in the season. This is a great show for families and for kids. It is currently playing at Cumberland County Playhouse through December 17th. You can purchase tickets by calling 931-484-5000 or by visiting the WEBSITE.