Cast members from “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

Cast members from “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

It’s the most wonderful time of the year” and what can capture the reason for the season better than a Christmas pageant.

Once again, churches of all denominations will offer the seasonal sensation of the real Christmas story brought to life by their darling stars – angels and shepherds clad in bed sheets and bathrobes, haloes hanging, angel wings slightly askew; the Wise Men and the Three Kings all richly adorned, out of step, itching, shoving, smirking through the fourth wall; And of course Mary and Joseph, who slowly, steadily and ever so seriously seek their Oscars on their way to the manger – all corralled by a bevy of appointed stage moms and dads in tow with props, crooks, wings, safety pins and duct tape.

City Theater brings the experience to the stage in Barbara Robinson’s can’t-miss family-friendly Christmas comedy, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” Filled with divinely-scripted (and unscripted) imperfections that are so unique to kids on stage and so adorable to watch, it’s a perfect show to get everyone in the Christmas spirit. Indeed, this pageant proves that a child does lead the way. “Shazam! He’s in the barn! Come See!”

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is the Christmas story behind the Christmas story that almost never happened. When Mrs. Armstrong, who always directs the pageant, lands herself in the hospital, the Church Ladies convince Grace Bradley to take the reins. It’s the same every year, she figures, so what could possibly go wrong?

Enter the Herdmans, a brood of unkempt, unfiltered, un-churched siblings that heard that some rich minister was giving out free snacks and so they crashed the auditions, ending up with refreshments – and leading roles in the pageant. But – as miracles go – what seemed to be doomed turned out to be an inspiring success and somehow all the challenges and conflicts resolve in glorious fashion.

There will be as many delightful Christmas messages to be had as there will be theater-goers. The old adage “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” comes to mind, along with several morals to the story: Don’t judge people by their appearances; When given a chance kids can shine; None of us are perfect; etc.

But my favorite take-away theme is that some of us at times might be hard to love, but despite our faults and shortcomings God can change hearts, bring out the best in us, and use even the least of us to do the greatest things.

I would have to say the Herdmans are the heroes: Ralph (West Bourgeois- Lang), Imogene (Teyha Brown), Leroy (Jared Williams), Claudia (Olivia Hand), Olivia (Addison Macavian) and Gladys (Chamille Ramirez). All portrayed their characters with perfect vim and vinegar and kept the audience smiling with their priceless expressions and antics.

I’d have to say The Bradleys are also the heroes for their commitment as a family to the pageant and for literally weaving everything together: Grace/Mother (Tara Golson), who directed the pageant with controlled confusion and cool comedic frustration; Bob/Father (Tad Williams), always there and supportive because “Yes, he had to go”; Beth (Kiera Knuckles) who did a great job as narrator, big sister and friend; and Charlie (Ryan Phipps) – this little guy turned in a very strong performance, bravo!

But what every pageant needs to really make it great are lots of kids of all ages, shapes and sizes to help the story with their own style of acting and singing. So I’d have to say these Church Kids are heroes, too, for playing such crucial roles: Alice Wendleken (Laina Mekonis), Maxine (Alicia Fournier), Emily Hopkins (Anne Marie Templeton), Danielle (Evvy McGirr), Beverly (Tega Bourgeois- Lang), Alison (Alicia Thibeau), Shirley (Lauren Arsenault) and Hannah Clark (Allyson Hand).

And, of course, what pageant doesn’t benefit from those unsung heroes who coordinate all the behind-the-scenes production details, those chatty Church Ladies who add a nice touch of comic relief: Mrs. Armstrong (Jessica Fidalgo), Mrs. Slocum (Wendy Brown), Mrs. Clark (Ashley Taylor), Mrs. Clausing (Crystal Arsenault), Mrs. McCarthy (Leslie Lampert) and Mrs. Early (Melissa Bourgeois-Lang).

Rounding out the cast are Eric Brown, who plays Rev. Hopkins, and Graves Bates and Joel Crowley, who play the firemen (no need for alarm, it’s part of the script … I think).

And wait! There’s more! Producer Linda Sturdivant and director Brian McAloon knew that this fast-paced one-act comedy would leave audiences wanting for more so they added a Bonus Act Two that includes a stellar concert and sing-along featuring some of City Theater’s finest talent (consider it a gift of gifts): James Muller, Brian McAloon, Joel Crowley, Alyssa Rojecki, Lynn Boren-McKellar, Leslie Lampert, Rebecca Rinaldi and the Centre of Movement Dancers with choreographer Mariel Roy, Amber Arsenault, Haley Crosby, Hailey Fardon, Lily Rowe and Marissa Wilson. The pit includes music director Bethany Perkins on piano, Jimmy McGirr on bass and Josh Adams on drums/percussion.

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is sponsored by the Journal Tribune and runs through Dec. 13, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. The theater is located at 205 Main St., Biddeford. For tickets, call 282-0849 or visit

— Louis Philippe reviews theater for the Journal Tribune.

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