Friday, December 13, 2013

REVIEW: "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" Presented by the 1st United Methodist Church

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" will be presented by Vancouver's First United Methodist Church Players and feature Portland's North End Players' regulars Debbie Larsen Walker, Sue Harris, and Amy Harris, under the direction of Tim Luke.

I have hadn't seen this play before, but found it delightful.

"In this hilarious Christmas classic, a couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the Herdman kids--probably the most inventively awful kids in history.  You won't believe the mayhem, and the fun, when the Herdmans collide with the Christmas story head on!" (Samuel French)

In the book the Herdmans swear, smoke cigars, are abusive, etc., (generally very bad kids), but I have no cautions for the play. Though they talk about these things--and even mention sex (oh, my!)--there is no swearing or smoking actually going on. I think it's safe to bring the whole family.

Anyway, for anyone who's ever put on a Christmas pageant or church play this will hit the spot. Some of my early stage experiences were at this very church and my first band performed on this very stage. I am happy to see new talent (some thirty years later) still honing their talents and dreams on that stage. Bravo for the vision of Tim Luke, director!


There were some new (first time) actors and actresses on the stage with a handful of seasoned players, so the skill levels were a mixed bag. Still, a delightful show full of comedy, whimsy and great lines. The play is also somewhat touching and and shared some important messages about redemption and how even the "baddest" people can be changed by the "goodest" story ever.

Opening night was packed and everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy the performances. The facility and stage are very nice so it's good to see it in use. The show moved well and had only a few minor problems (sometimes hard to hear even with mics ringing on the edge of squeal). The set was nice, costumes perfect and the lighting adequate.

There are kids of all ages and (again) some of the talent lacked experience, but that's okay. This is a new outreach for the church and I hope there will be many more productions to come. Standout performances were given by three youth: Kayla Peck as Beth Bradley (the narrator), Jaycee Williams as Imogene Herdman (the ringleader of her clan), and Amelia Harris (as her younger sister) Gladys Herdman. I enjoyed Peck's professionalism and emotive acting. Williams, though soft-spoken, had great spunk. But it was Harris who was a real kick in the pants.


Remaining shows (which run about an hour) are December 14 and 15, Friday and Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. The shows are FREE (donations for the theater ministry are gladly accepted). AND it's dessert theater! Shows are at the First United Methodist Church, 401 E. 33rd Street, Vancouver, Wash. (upstairs in Jason Lee Hall).

Review by Gregory E. Zschomler.

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