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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

a Holiday Special
CATEGORY :
by Barbara Robinson

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Balzer Theatre @ Herren's [WEBSITE]
ID# 3913

SHOWING : December 10, 2010 - January 02, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

The Herdmans are absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. But when rumors of free snacks lure them into church one Sunday afternoon, they inadvertently take over the annual Christmas Pageant. The delightful chaos that ensues teaches everyone about the true spirit of the Holiday Season. We promise... you'll never look at the three wise men the same way again!

Our diverse cast of 23 includes 10 children and one actor from Habima (a theatre company for developmentally-challenged adults). The show includes a number of festive holiday songs, dynamic acting performances and more.

School shows still available! Bring your school group and get free lesson plans that conform to GA Performance Standards!

Gather your neighbors, friends, family, scout troop, church group and more and become a Synchronicity Ambassador! When you assemble a group of 10+, you get our special group rate plus 2 FREE additional tickets!

Running time: 55 minutes, no intermission. Concessions, books and Synchronicity merchandise are available for sale in the lobby before and after the performance.

$15-$18; discounts for Synchronicity members, groups, students, & senior citizens.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Justin Anderson
Assistant Director Madison Colquette
Costume Designer Jonida Beqo
Lighting Designer Jessica Coale
Props Master Melisa Dubois
Production Manager Nina Gooch
Set Designer Phillip Male
Sound Designer Jon Summers
Stage Manager Danielle Wright
Helen Armstrong Greta Glenn
Hobie Elijah Marcano
Alice Wendleken Eliana Marianes
Imogene Herdman Claire Rigsby
Mrs. Clark, Fireman Cheryl Rookwood
Charlie Bradley Nicholas Sanders
Mrs. McCarthy, Singer Mary Saville
Bob Bradley, Reverend Hopkins John Stewart
Ralph Herdman Craig Thompson
Mrs. Slocum, Fireman Whitney Umstead
Beth Bradley Sarah Wallis
Maxine Rachel Wansker
Grace Bradley Maureen Yasko
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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The Tyranny of Low Expectations
by Dedalus
Monday, December 27, 2010
4.5
“The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.”

Thus begins Barbara Robinson’s 1972 getting-to-be-a-classic book (and play), “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” Indeed, is there a place in the country where there aren’t several productions on local stages every year? I’ve done lights for two different productions over the years, my daughter has played in two, and my own spouse directed a one-night-only production at her church (**) the day before I saw this one by Synchronicity.

So, I daresay, my expectations were at an ambivalent level – I’ve always been impressed with Synchronicity’s programming for younger audiences (“Junie B Jones,” “Bunnicula,” and “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” were some recent favorites), but I was afraid of having a “been-there seen-that” experience with this one.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. This show was a lively wallow in kid-friendly cheer, an energetic revisit to a story that is in danger of being over-told, and a top-notch production that reminded me of why this is a favorite of theatres everywhere.

In case you’ve avoided it over the years, the story is told by Beth Bradley, whose mother has been tapped to spearhead this year’s Christmas Pageant. Into the normal bedlam of a church pageant storm the Herdmans, a rag-tag collection of kids “from the other side of the tracks,” who “lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s old broken-down toolhouse.” No one expects anything from these kids except Mrs. Bradley, and disaster looms as the holiday nears.

This is one of those stories about how kids respond to what’s expected of them, how if you expect them to be mean they WILL be mean, how if you expect them to feel some Christmas spirit and give them the opportunity, they may just rise to the occasion. It’s story that, for me, doesn’t get old, and which moves me even as it makes me cringe at the antics of the “bad” kids.

And, if you’ll forgive a paradoxical aside, this production totally upended my own somewhat less-than-stellar expectations of it.

Starting off with a clever and energetically sung “curtain speech,” the show dives right into the story, keeping it at a brisk hour length. The cast is pitch-perfect with Maureen Yasko and John Stewart bringing to the Bradleys a level of comfort and familiarity that rang true. Sarah Elizabeth Wallis (as Beth) handles her narration duties like a pro, and convincingly shows us an increasing respect for the Herdman mob. And, as the Herdmans, Craig Thompson, Claire Rigsby, Leon Yushin, Zaire Gibbs, Eva Baez-Brooks, and Katie Keenan are all wonderful, loud and raucous one moment, quiet and reflective at another. I especially liked the moment when director Justin Anderson showed them getting ready for the pageant by helping each other with their costumes and hair, even as they’re squabbling and sniping.

So, why should you see this production, when you’ve probably seen your own kids do it somewhere, sometime already? Leaving aside the pleasure of seeing it done with a professionally designed and executed set, leaving aside seeing marvelously talented kids tackle the roles, it is still a good story, a moving testament to the spirit of Christmas (whatever that may be), and an amusing portrait of kids who can’t help being kids. Even if they are “absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.”

And you can’t expect more than that!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

** I am officially the “Worst Daddy Ever.” My daughter, Julia, played Gladys Herdman in my wife’s production, and I missed it because of my teching duties elsewhere on the only performance night. To make matters worse, I had arranged to take her to see Synchronicity’s production, but left her behind because she was late coming home from a sleep-over. This note constitutes my public penance and confession, and you would be well-justified in shunning me forever. {Sigh}


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