The church Christmas pageant is an annual event with the same story presented the same way. Frankly, it has gotten to be a little boring.
This year, the pageant is anything but boring. It’s the “Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” The Greenville Area Community Center is presenting the classic play this weekend.
“This is the third time I have directed this story and I just love it,” Director Ruth Hansen said. “It has a good message, reminding us that the baby Jesus was born for all of us.”
The cast consists of 48 actors from second grade through high school. Nearly 25 of them are new to the stage, Hansen said.
“We cast our main roles, then invited younger brothers and sisters to join in the past few weeks to play the parts of angels and sheep,” Hansen said. “It is a little different after just coming off (the Greenville High School production of ) ‘Grease’ and we don’t normally cast younger than fourth grade. But it is an opportunity to introduce theater and its terms to the kids.”
The story begins when Beth Bradley, played with spunk by Audree Stephens, explains to the audience exactly what the annual Christmas pageant is.
“Our Christmas program is not all that entertaining,” she says. “We always have the same old program with the same costumes and the same people playing Mary and Joseph and we sing the same old Christmas carols.”
Her brother Charlie, portrayed confidently by Vincent Frank, agrees.
“You have the choice of wearing your father’s bathrobe for a shepherd or an old sheet for an angel,” Charlie says.
An unfortunate accident threatens to cancel the Christmas play, until the church ladies — played by Julie Stephens, Becky Tower, Tonya Swanson and Wendy Baty — decide that Mrs. Bradley, portrayed by Kaitlyn Denevan, could take the post this year.
“Mom didn’t count on any problems taking over. But then she didn’t count on the Herdmans,” Beth says.
Ralph (Skye Hayes), Imogene (Olivia Tower), Dannie (Anna Stanford), Claude (Logan Higgins), Ollie (Alexis Rush) and Gladys (Lauren Sandtveit) are the Herdmans, six of the most rascally, unlovable children you could meet. When the Herdmans decide to join the pageant, the other children are certain it is going to be the worst Christmas pageant ever.
“The Herdmans can do anything, and they will,” says Alice, portrayed with style by Erica Czerski. “They will ruin the pageant, and it will be all your mother’s fault.”
“With Imogene and Ralph playing the parts, Mary and Joseph are going to look like refugees,” Beth complains.
“Actually, they were refugees,” explains her dad Bob Bradley, played strongly by newcomer Spence Tower.
The simple set enhances the role of the actors, who wear street clothes as costumes until the finale, when the pageant is presented.
The audience, with the Herdmans’ help, then gets a fresh look at the true Christmas story, making it “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
If you go …
What: “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” presented by the Greenville Area Community Center.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Greenville Area Community Center, 900 E. Kent Road.
Tickets: $9 apiece. Stop into the community center during normal business hours Monday through Friday or call (616) 754-9163 to reserve.
Cast and crew
Cast: Beth Bradley, Audree Stephens; Rev. Hopkins, Rhonda Lougin; Ralph, Skye Hayes; Imogene, Olivia Tower; Dannie, Anna Stanford; Claude, Logan Higgins; Ollie, Alexis Rush; Gladys, Lauren Sandtveit; Charlie Bradley, Vincent Frank; Mr. Bob Bradley, Spence Tower; Mrs. Grace Bradley, Kaitlyn Denevan; Irma Slocum, Julie Stephens; Edna McCarthy, Becky Tower; Jane Clark, Tonya Swanson; Helen Armstrong, Wendy Baty; Alice Wendleken, Erica Czerski; Maxine, Tiffany Miller; Elmer Hopkins, Ellis Mason; David, Luke Swanson; Hobie, Brendon Eade; Shirley, Hailey King; Juanita, Chatara Loughin; Beverly, Sarah Stanford; Doris, Isabella Tower; Roberta, Hailey Fetterhoff; Janet, Jamie Fetterhoff.
Sheep chorus: Chloe Bartlett, Ella Baty, Owen Bolthouse, Trenton Verbeck.
Angel chorus: Natalie Bushong, Natasha Bushong, Kylee Brand, Megan Higgins, Kaelynn Moore.
Herald angels: Hannah MacDonald, Michelle Betham, Jada Betham, Rebecca Caswell, Elayna Huber, Brandalyn King, Secrett Hunt, Kelsea McConnel, Rebekka Raymore & Skyler Verbeck.
Firemen: Paul Pollock and Paul Temerowski.
Crew: Jamee Gunn, producer; Ruth Hansen, director; Emily Smith, assistant director; Annette Sandtveit and moms, vocal coach/pianist and costumes; Larry Moss, tech director; Ryan Duffing, Linda Custer, Tiffany Miller, Julie Stephens, Shelby Klinert and Dannah Gunn, makeup; Joslyn Katterjohn, stage manager; Andrew Gree and Brittney Bassett, light design; Sam Moss, sound design; Brittney Bassett, light/sound board; Tom Stephenson, spotlight; Zac Wilfong, Skye Hayes, Loren Moss, AJ Stephens, Kyle Banta, Amy Myers, Kelsea Silvernail, Bergan Bolthouse and cast, ushers
Correspondent Lori Hansen is a Greenville-area resident.