The Best Christmas Pageant Ever– on stage

December 16, 2009 at 12:59 pm 9 comments

December 16, 2009

Late last Friday afternoon, my husband and I drove to Woodstock to see the perfomance. I’d been looking forward to seeing this play on stage and to see my friend and her daughters in their first-ever theatre production.

Theatre Woodstock makes its home in the Market Centre on Peel Street in Woodstock, Ontario.  The program quotes Kath Oliver, ” Community theatre is an act of love; there is no pay, no promotion, no glamour and no red carpet.” She also says that people do it for a variety of reasons, and that the common one reflects on the feeling of community. The director, I’m told by my friend, has amazing patience for working with children, organizing and adding special creative touches. No mean feat when the production encompasses so many parts, including small animals.

  The community showed up; every seat was filled. We had all come to see the actors from age 5 to nearly 90, to support the producer and manager, and also to enjoy the experience.  We waited expectantly for the show to begin.

Jessica Phelps, who played Charlie’s sister Beth, was also the trustworthy narrator. It was as though this was her real life, she played her part so well, sometimes serious and often tongue-in-cheek about what was going to happen or what had already been decided.

Kate Innes played the part of Grace, the director of the Christmas pageant, with aplomb. Tension was palpable as the woman who usually took this part directed and insisted from her hospital bed how things should be done,  and as the Herdman children pushed others out of the way,  and asked incessant questions. When the Reverend Hopkins tried to persuade Grace to cancel the Christmas pageant that year, she determined that this would be the best pageant ever, and it was.

The Herdman children, Imogene, Ralph, Claude, Leroy and Gladys pushed their way into scenes, often defiant, and questioning. The assumption that all children know the story about Jesus’ birth is shattered by their questions, and so the director begins to read the story, to ever more questions and outrage of the Herdman children, who have also known rejection and poverty.

The regulars at Sunday school refused to take a part because of threats by the Herdmans if they should volunteer. Ellen [Nina DeSouza], answered, “What if I get sick?”  Alice [RaineyRogozynski] , who usually played Mary, refused to put up her hand to be Mary. Later she reported what Imogene would do to her if she volunteered. Charlie, who’d rather not be a shepherd, is one anyway.

 There’s whispering back and forth, pointing out what those children were doing wrong in church, but also the ladies in the kitchen, including Mrs. McCarthy [Audrianna DeSouza] and Mrs. Slocum, who are curious about what’s going on during practice and neglect their baking.

By the last scene, Imogene [Megan Grist] has taken off her big hoop earrings and holds the doll, Jesus, in a reverent and loving manner— a transition that we don’t expect her to make. Indeed the Herdmans learn about  the story in the best way possible, by acting it out themselves: Olivia DeSouza, an exuberant Angel of the Lord, pushing the shepherds, including a small dog dressed as a sheep, hurrying them to the stable, using far more words than her biblical counterpart; also the shepherds, who bring a small dog dressed as a sheep, and the wise men who give what they have— a Christmas ham instead of a make-believe urn of expensive oil. 

Charlie [Zack Wall], knowing that the Herdman children have brought the ham from their Christmas hamper, wants to give it back to them. His father says that a gift once given should not be returned.  Charlie notes that this is the first time a Herdman child has ever given something away. That as a result of engaging with the Christmas story.

 I’m sure that Barbara Robinson has at least once directed a Christmas pageant, for she wrote in so many details of how they come about, how unpredictable a process it can be.

  An amazing story, well done by all actors with enthusiasm and appropriate seriousness. Kudos to Director Kath Oliver, Sue Robinson, Producer, and Jennea Smith, costume designer, and all backstage help for supporting the actors in this exciting and lively production.

Read the book, or see the play if you get the chance. It will warm your heart, make you laugh, and renew the meaning of Christmas.


Entry filed under: church, faith, family. Tags: , .

Trying out for parts in a play– The Best Christmas Pageant Ever I Dreamed a Dream– Susan Boyle

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gayleen Crawford  |  December 18, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Yes I heard the play was great. A friend’s daughter was in it. We didn’t hear about it in time to get tickets. Glad you enjoyed it. Our little theatre puts a lot in to their performances.

    • 2. storygal  |  December 18, 2009 at 2:04 pm

      Thanks, Gayleen. Yes, it was an amazing production. I’d go to another play again, especially when someone is in the play, and when it’s a story I already enjoy.

  • 3. Megan Grist  |  June 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks so much for the great review! It was really fun getting to know everyone and pleasing the audience 🙂

    • 4. storygal  |  June 30, 2011 at 2:24 pm

      Hello Megan,

      I hope you’ll keep up with your acting. You played your role well.

      • 5. Megan Grist  |  April 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm

        Thank you! I am, I’m attending WCI for the muscial theatre program 🙂 We are doing We Will Rock You in December 2012 😀

  • 6. storygal  |  April 10, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Hello Megan,

    Which WCI? We have one in Waterloo and I suppose the other is in Woodstock.

    • 7. Megan Grist  |  January 21, 2013 at 2:28 am

      Woodstock Collegiate Institute on Ridell street in Woodstock. It around th corner from the little theatre. We put on a musical every December and two drama shows in may.

      • 8. storygal  |  January 21, 2013 at 2:37 am

        Hello Megan. My sisters attended WCI, but perhaps the musicals are something new there? My sisters weren’t into drama. I went to Huron Park. Are extra curricular activities still going on in your school? Ours in Waterloo County are all set aside with teacher negotiations. Keep acting. You do it well. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by my blog.

      • 9. Megan Grist  |  January 21, 2013 at 2:45 am

        We have been doing shows for over a decade I believe. And no we don’t have extracurriculars for now. Luckily however our productions are all part of a coarse. We have musical theatre as well as our grade twelve drama class to put on shows 🙂

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