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Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009

First Stage’s ‘Best Christmas Pageant Ever’

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Those darn Herdman kids! They steal lunches, eat the firemen’s donuts and even put tadpoles in the drinking fountain. What’s a town to do, especially when the six siblings force their way into the annual Christmas pageant?

First Stage Children’s Theater kicked off the holiday season with its seventh production of Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. As the other students cower in fear, the school’s new director must find a way to put on the show, despite the town’s misgivings.

While the first act drags a bit in setting up the story, the real payoff comes in the second act, when the pageant must go on—with hilarious results. Director Jeff Frank keeps the laughs coming as the Herdmans “modernize” the birth of Jesus, using modern-day tunes and choreography from the likes of Michael Jackson, among others.

At the 1 p.m. Saturday performance the Pop Rocks children’s cast anchored the show. The uniformly excellent adult ensemble featured Angela Iannone, Mary MacDonald Kerr, Todd Denning, Jeff Schaetzke and, in one of her best comedic roles, Molly Rhode as an exercise-obsessed suburban mom. Rhode literally got the crowd on its feet before the “pageant” by doing audience participation exercises along with local celebrity guest star John McGivern.

First Stage Children’s Theater continues its production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever through Dec. 24.

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