By Lynn Geyer
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is the holiday offering at The Lakewood Playhouse.
This charming family-fare play by Barbara Robinson is exactly what the title purports: The trials and tribulations of amateurs mounting a church Christmas pageant. Oh, yes, one thing more – this one is fraught with laughter!
It seems as though Mrs. Armstrong, who has put on this same pageant for nigh on to 20 years is out of commission with a broken leg. So, the task is laid upon our heroine, Grace Bradley.
Of course, each member of the church youth group wants to be in the pageant and all are eager to get their favorite roles – until the appearance of the Herdman family. This family from Hell is composed of four brothers and two sisters who could send Freddy Krueger running to the cops to surrender!
The whole family has decided that this pageant thing sounds like a good time and they are going to be in it – their way! The fun goes on from there.
Most of the cast is comprised of prepubescent church members.
Katie Hackett does a nice job as Beth Bradley, the director’s daughter who narrates our tale. Jeremy Bode is quite good as her brother Charlie. Daneeka Jennings holds her own as Alice, who “has always played Mary” – until now.
Other youth members are Jacob Bode is Junior, Joshua Bode is David, Millie Hensley is Juanita, Quinci King is Elmer Hopkins, Kali McDonald-Kelley is Doris, Amy Nygard is Maxine, Andrew Redford is Hobie and Hannah Sheil is Shirley. Natalie White is Beverly, the youthful church pianist. Jessica Bode, Devlynn Doyle, Ava Elmore, Elania Joy Hacket, Grace Livingston, Clara Rosati and Penelope Venturini are Baby Angels.
All play their parts exactly as they should, as they act like prepubescent church members.
The adults are Karen E. Christensen who is wonderful as the bombastic Mrs. Armstrong, the disabled previous director. Virginia Yanoff is equally hysterical as Mrs. McCarthy, the head of the women’s committee, who is in charge of the Applesauce Cake Brigade. Heather Bode plays Mrs. Clark and Emily Harrison is Mrs. Slocum.
Jeffri Ellen Peters plays our novice director Grace Bradley, who seems to have nothing well in hand, with great frustration. Seth Tribble is her husband Bob, who is both helpful and equally dumbfounded.
Demetrick Louis eloquently plays Reverend Hopkins, the head of the church, who gives us the clue to what’s going to happen to our simple little pageant when he says, “Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little children come unto me’ but I’m not sure he meant the Herdmans!”
The Herdmans! Yes, the little church nemeses who steal the pageant and the show are Giovanni Baglio as Ollie, Ricky Benoit as Leroy, Cameron Pope as Claude – the younger juvenile delinquents – and Thomas McDonald as older brother Ralph.
Isabella Baglio plays Gladys with gusto and verve, sort of like Rambo barging through the nursery.
Ginny McClure is wonderful as Imogene, our lost sheep who is found by the end of the pageant.
Maggie Knott, the real director of this holiday gem, has done a nice job of keeping her acting brood in line and on line. She uses every inch of the “non-set” designed by Blake R. York – it works well for this production.
Alexander Smith is light and sound designer and Diane Runkel did costumes.
“Best Christmas Pageant Ever” continues at the Lakewood Playhouse in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center adjacent to the Pierce Transit Depot through December 19 at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with 2 p.m. matinees Sundays. There is a Pay-What-You-Can performance Thursday December 2 at 8 p.m. and an actors’ benefit matinee Saturday December 11 at 2 p.m. There are also special weekday performances December 21, 22 and 23 at 7:30pm.
For more information or to make reservations call the theatre at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
Suffer the little children to come unto Lakewood Playhouse for a great Christmas treat. The kids will love it. The adults will adore it. “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” makes for a nice Christmas gift to the whole family.