The Ardmore Little Theatre’s production of the ‘Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ may very well earn itself that title this holiday season. Directed by Monica Stolfa and Margi Thompson, the local theater’s 16th production of the long-time favorite Christmas play is both heartwarming and hilarious.
Since over 40 children from Ardmore and nearby communities auditioned for parts in the production this year, the actors and actresses were split into two 34-member casts, the red cast and the green cast. On Wednesday night, the red cast took to the stage to give onlookers their first taste of ’The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’.
Addison Pinkerton’s Beth Bradley drew the audience into the story with a narrative about the dreaded Herdman children. Known as the town menaces, they ate the firemen’s donuts and put tadpoles in a woman’s drink, but you won’t believe what they did to the Christmas pageant.
Pinkerton does a fantastic job throughout the production, narrating the show from Beth Bradley’s perspective and allowing the audience necessary insight as the events unfold.
Delivering an equally good performance, Lesley Dvorak’s Grace Bradley (Beth’s mother) gets handed the position as director of the Christmas pageant by chance when the long-standing — and bossy — director, Mrs. Armstrong (Shelia Timmons) winds up in the hospital.
This marks the first obscurity in what is normally a rather predictable pageant for the town — something Beth Bradley and others were noticeably becoming bored with.
The Ladies Aid Society — all fabulously cast, with Julie Clemens’ performance as Mrs. McCarthy particularly rousing laughter — doubts Grace’s ability to properly direct the Christmas pageant from the start. But when the Herdmans end up with lead rolls (in hopes to obtain some Sunday school desserts) the town spreads with gossip.
The six children cast as the Herdmans are convincing as siblings, pulling out a few smug looks and tight fists to really get into their characters. Faces smudged with dirt and ripped shirts and pants, their clothes alone make it clear that the Herdmans don’t come from a well-off family.
To Grace’s surprise, the Herdman’s have never heard the classic Christmas story before. Their rendition of the Christmas story is hilariously briefly renamed “Revenge at Bethlehem” and unsurprisingly the dress rehearsal doesn’t go very well, ending with smoke coming out of the church bathroom.
However, the second half of the production is full of surprises — maybe even Christmas miracles — as we begin to see another side of the misunderstood Herdman children. With an opening that is mostly humorous, you’ll likely find yourself strikingly moved by the end of the second half.
“There was something different about this one,” Mrs. McCarthy states as the curtains close, an accurate summation of the holiday production.
Whether you come for the cute baby angles, the relatable jokes or the unique, moving message, ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ is a must see this holiday season.
Performances will be held at 7 p.m. November 14 - 17 at the Charles B. Goddard Center, with additional performances at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 16 and 17.
The Green cast performs on Thursday and Saturday nights and the Sunday matinee. The Red cast performs on Friday and Sunday, in addition to the matinee on Saturday.
Tickets are $8 for students and $12 for adults and can be purchased at ardmorelittletheatre.com or by calling 580-223-6387.