"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" tells the story of the Herdsmans, a gang of unlovable siblings who bully, steal, lie and fight their way through life.
Other kids are terrified of them. Adults, including the ones from "welfare" who visit regularly, apparently can't control them. And, here they were, playing the lead roles in the local church's annual Christmas pageant led by a frazzled woman whose own two kids are in it too.
As I watched the story unfold as presented by the Raleigh Little Theatre on Sunday, all I could think about was how I could relate to that mom/pageant director. There she was - as played by Jenny Anglum - trying to answer bizarre questions, wondering if it would ever come together and, then, calling for a break when she just couldn't take it anymore.
While everybody is the winner here at the end of the show, I gave a silent cheer for her once it was clear she'd proven those chatty, naysaying church ladies wrong. A Christmas pageant starring the Herdsmans could be one worth remembering and, for all the right reasons.
The hour-long show, which runs through Nov. 18, is a lot of fun. There are really funny moments that drew plenty of laughs from the crowd and a sweet ending that reminds us about the real reason we have Christmas. (Heads up: There are a couple of very quick references to talk that the Herdsmans generally talk about sex).
The cast is mostly made up of local kids and teens. They are the real stars here, playing everything from lead roles to smaller parts with energy and professionalism. The transformation that Lauren Toney as Imogene Herdsman makes is pretty wonderful to watch. It's clear they all are having a great time on stage.
The play takes place at the theater's Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, a smaller space where the audience can sit at the same level as the actors on either side of the stage. At the end, the entire cast lines up so kids can get their programs signed - something my seven-year-old loved.
Tickets are $13 for adults and teens and $9 for kids. Showtimes include matinees and evening shows. Shows also are scheduled at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., Wednesday. They are intended for school groups, but there may be some tickets for the general public available if you're tracked out or homeschooled. Call ahead.
I'd recommend the show for grade schoolers and up.