Young actors shine in 'The Best Christmas
By Myra Yellin Outwater
December 8, 2009
''The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!'' by the Pennsylvania Playhouse is a
delightful piece of holiday fluff designed to amuse and entertain family
The show tells the story of the transformation of the streetwise Herdman
family. These five dirty, poorly behaved children have learned to survive
by manipulating the system. They have no parental supervision and lie,
steal, smoke cigars and bully younger children.
The play opens as these tyrants, who learn that the church offers free
cookies and drinks after services, become churchgoers and then volunteer
for the leads in the annual Christmas Pageant. And then, despite the fears
of the other children and their parents, the pageant becomes the best
Christmas Pageant Ever!
Pamela Dillenbeck does a good job of holding her large cast of 22 children
and eight adults together. But true to the old theater maxim, it is hard
to play opposite children, and while the adults in the cast work hard to
maintain the flow of this charming story of holiday redemption, the
children steal the limelight.
McKennan Henninger displays an incredible poise as Beth Bradley, the young
girl who narrates and introduces the story. Lynsey Jeffrey is a swaggering
know it all Imogene who, when cast as Mary, questions the traditional
story and then adds her own touching realism to the play when she is
overcome with maternal feelings for the Baby Jesus. John Smith plays Ralph
Herdman, her overbearing boyish brother, who becomes the caring and
protective Joseph in the pageant.
But it is Maggie Toner's often unpredictable posing that makes Gladys, the
youngest Herdman, such a fun character. Assigned to play a peace-loving
angel, Toner is exuberant and mischievous and in constant motion even to
her final bow.
Joanne Ferrence adds a funny cameo as Mrs. Armstrong, who falls and lands
in a hospital, and then tries to micromanage the pageant from her bed.
The set is a lovely series of ivory paneled walls decked with red
''The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!'' 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m.
Sunday, through Dec. 21, Pennsylvania Playhouse, Illicks Mill Road,
Bethlehem. Tickets: $20, adults; $17 seniors, students. 610-865-6665,
Myra Yellin Outwater is a freelance writer.
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