It may a generational thing, but I never heard of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever before watching the play in Richmond on Saturday, Dec. 12. The play, based on the book, is a simple story designed for children, but as is often the case in simple stories, the message applies to the young and old alike.
The story centers around the Herdman children. They are the “worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and hit little kids.” After these children are accidently invited to church, they decide they want to be part of the Christmas play — and all the church children are too afraid of the Herdmans to compete for the starring roles. So the Herdman children become the mother of Jesus, Joseph, the wise men and the angel announcing the birth of Jesus.
What the Herdmans do though, is ask the hard, albeit comical, questions surrounding Jesus’ birth. Through their innocent, yet harsh questioning, the true meaning of Christmas begins to appear. By the time the play is finished, it is the roughhewn Herdmans that teach the Christians the true message of Jesus.
Local Performers Excel
In the play performed at the Richmond Civic Theatre, all of the actors — which is a largely a young cast — performed their lines and scenes flawlessly. It always amazes me the quality of shows produced at the Richmond theater. It is truly an asset to the region.
Although each of the characters brought the story to life, four of the actors really stood out in Saturday’s play. Moving the narration forward nicely — with a considerable amount of lines — was 6th grader, Mallory Bolser. Mallory shared the stage with her mother, Leslie Bolser. Leslie brings to life the pure exasperation her character, Grace Bradley, feels when given the last-minute task of organizing the annual Christmas play — with the added burden of having the Herdman children steal the lead roles.
In her first Richmond Civic Theater performance Ava Ansorg portrays Imogene Herdman — mother Mary in the church play. Because of Ansorg’s strong performance, including how she handles the doll representing the baby Jesus, one can feel the shift in Imogene’s understanding of the story of Jesus.
While Imogene bring the thoughtfulness to the play, it is the young Gladys Herdman, played by Addison Gulley, that delivers the humor. Gladys, who plays the Angel of the Lord appearing to the shepherds, just doesn’t understand why the Angel is so coy when telling the shepherds where Jesus is. Gladys prefers a more direct, flamboyant and less cryptic method and wants to use her favorite word — pulled from comic books — Shazaam!
When Gulley delivers her big line to the shepherds near the end of the play, the crowd erupted into laughter. The third grader definitely understands comedic timing and is not the least bit burdened with stage fright.
If you have never watched a performance at the Richmond Civic Theater, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, is definitely a great one to start with. The performance will have you thinking, laughing and you may even shed a tear or two.
The final three performances of the play are Friday, Dec. 18, Saturday, Dec. 19 and Sunday, Dec. 20.