'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever'

Greenwood Little Theatre’s upcoming production is sure to bring holiday cheer, laughs and fun for the whole family.

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Directed by Sandi Wheatley, the cast consists of children and adults and focuses on a church Christmas pageant and the Herdmans — six delinquent children who attend church for the first time after being told that it offers snacks.

“It was written in the early ’70s by Barbara Robinson as a book, and it was performed first in ’82 in Kentucky,” said Wheatley. “There are theaters all over the country that perform it every year.”

The book was also adapted into a television movie on ABC in 1983.

In the play, the church’s annual Christmas pageant is different this year because Mrs. Vera Armstrong, played by Gwen Riley, who normally is the director, has broken her leg. So Mrs. Grace Bradley, played by Kimberly Gnemi, has to direct.

“Mrs. Armstrong keeps calling her on the phone and offering advice and telling her how to do it,” said Wheatley.

The Herdmans’ arrival also shakes up the pageant, especially when they receive parts.

“Everybody thinks it’s going to be a disaster,” said Wheatley. “The Herdmans are tacky, low-rent folks, and they dress funny, and they poke each other, and they smoke, and they drink communion wine.”

With some bullying, Imogene Herdman, played by Camryn Joiner, scores the part of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

“She’s wearing a blue dress and a veil, and whenever we pick Mary, everyone looks at Alice, and then I’m the one who raises my hand,” said Camryn.

Alice, played by Kathryn Warren, is a popular girl who’s always got a sarcastic comment.

“She’s a pain in the neck” said Kathryn.

Ainsley Melton plays Maxine, who is friends with Alice and Beth, played by Sara Crawford Logan.

“She’s kind of like Alice, because we don’t really like the Herdmans, and we’re always talking about how bad the Herdmans are,” said Ainsley. “We’re kind of like proper, and we’re like the popular kids, and we’re sassy sometimes.”

Beth and Ainsley also narrate in the play.

Wheatley said Hobie, played by Isabelle O’Brien, is a character who has one of the funniest lines in the play.

“My character is one who hates the play, hates doing practices,” said Isabelle. “I’m the one who has the funny lines.”

Ella, played by Molley Blackstone, has another.

“Gladys Herdman hits too hard,” said Molley reciting her line.

The young actors all say there are many funny parts, including one where Mrs. Edna McCarthy, played by Lee Lee Logan, smells smoke.

“She screams, ‘There’s a fire,’ and all the kids start going crazy,” said Camryn.

With a cast of mostly children, Wheatley said the parents have been very supportive throughout rehearsals. Some of the adult characters are even played by parents.

“The miracle of the play has been the parents,” Wheatley said. “We’ve got parents who have really gotten behind it and worked so hard.”

Many of the children have never performed in a Greenwood Little Theatre production but have quickly learned their way around the stage.

“This play has really come together really well,” said Camryn. “At the beginning, we were getting better and better and better. Now, this play has turned out to be a really good play, and we’re proud of it.”

The play is about a church Christmas pageant, but there’s also a bigger takeaway from the plot.

“Never treat somebody just like the way they act at first, because once you get to know them, you might make them a better person,” said Sara Crawford.

Ainsley added, “Never judge a book by its cover.”

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” will not have an intermission.

“This play is really short, sweet and funny,” said Sara Crawford.

Before the show starts, refreshments will be served in the lobby, courtesy of Paul Brown and Forrest Hodge.

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is a part of Greenwood Little Theatre’s Small Town America theme this season. Upcoming productions “Almost Maine” and “Ragtime” will finish out the season.

Two hundred seats for “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” have already been booked so far. Those interested in specific seating should purchase tickets as soon as possible.

The show is free for current Greenwood Little Theatre members. Tickets for non-members cost $10 for students (age 21 and younger) and $15 for adults. Visit greenwoodlittletheatre.com or call or text (662) 947-1075 to reserve seats.

Alicia Dallas