Christmas play returns to TOTS Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Young cast members rehearse a scene from “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

'Best Christmas Pageant Ever' opens Dec. 1

Story and photos by Matt Decker
Assistant editor
This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

It was nearly a decade ago that Rhea Anne Matthews first directed “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” at the Theater on the Square.

Now the play is set to return to the stage in downtown Waynesville, with opening performances scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2.

Gladys Herdman, played by Molly Zarcone, yells “Unto you a child is born!” as Beth, played by Talia Johnson, and Charlie, played by Jason McCormick, look on. The play opens Dec. 1.
The heartwarming comedy, which follows a family of delinquent siblings who upend a staid church’s annual Christmas pageant, features a large cast of children and adults, who have been in rehearsals since mid-October.

“With this production, I have such a variety of actors,” Matthews said. “We have about 50 percent of our cast who are new, including some of the adults. Right now, they’re doing exactly what needs to be done. It’s a little bumpy at times, but that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to play out.”

Based on the 1971 book by Barbara Robinson, the play tells the story of the six Herdman children, a rough-and-tumble bunch from the wrong side of the tracks, who decide to attend church one Sunday when the minister offers free snacks. When they hear about the Christmas pageant, the Herdmans demand to play major roles in it, to the horror of the other churchgoers.

The story is told by Beth Bradley, played by Talia Johnson. The Bradley clan — including parents Bob (played by Keith Stam) and Grace (Stephanie Godfrey), as well as Beth’s brother, Charlie (Jason McCormick) — have been a part of the traditional pageant for years. 

Talia Johnson narrates the story of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” during a PFAA rehearsal.
Talia Johnson narrates the story of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” during a PFAA rehearsal.
“I like (playing Beth) because she’s the narrator, and she’s on stage a lot,” Johnson said. “The whole play is very creative. But my favorite part is the Bradley household, especially when they’re saying how bad the Herdmans are.”

The Herdmans include Caleb Lewis as Ralph, Calie Zarcone as Imogene, Landyn Graham as Leroy, Henry Westphall as Claude, Joshua Lee as Ollie and Molly Zarcone as Gladys.

The cast also includes Lexi Harry as Alice Wendleken, Margie Rogers as Mrs. Armstrong, Katie Roberts as Mrs. Slocum, Shelly Merritt as Mrs. Clark, Judith Michaelovskis as Mrs. Clausing, April York as Mrs. McCarthy, Hailey Dennis as Maxine, Annya Pirtle as Elmer Hopkins, Elisha Crispin as Hobie, Andrew Warren as David, Aurora Morgan as Beverley, Ryan Gore and Grant Warren as firemen, Emily Gore as Shirley, Irina Crispin as Juanita, Evelyn Gore as Doris, Wayne McCormick as Rev. Hopkins, Lillian Smith and Shelby Cannon as sheep, Jace Morgan as an angel and shepherd, Hannah Craig, Addison West and Annaleigh Woodin as angels and Rebecca Woodin as a church lady.

To say Matthews is well acquainted with “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is an understatement. After directing the first PFAA production in 2008, she organized annual community-theater performances from 2013 to 2016 at several local churches. However, having the production back at the Theater on the Square offers several advantages, she said, including more performance dates.

“I really wanted to bring it back to the stage, because it’s a whole different production,” she said. “I appreciate the church settings — they’re authentic, because the play is set in a church. But we have much more to work with when we’re working with a stage.”  

Future performances are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 and 9 and Dec. 15 and 16. Matinee performances are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Dec. 10 and 17.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children ages 12 and younger

Tickets are available at  Seda’s Gift Shop in Waynesville, at the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau office and St. Robert Family Dental in St. Robert.

A limited number of tickets will be available at the door.

For more information, visit the “Pulaski Fine Arts Association-PFAA-Theater on the Square Facebook page.
Last Updated ( Friday, 15 December 2017 )