DAVIDSON – I wouldn’t say the Davidson Community Players (DCP) holiday show is the best Christmas pageant ever. But I hesitate to call it the worst, since there are a number of redeeming touches in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” The production is just plain sloppy. It’s the kids who save the show, headed by Marina Nichols who plays Beth Bradley, the daughter of a family suddenly confronted with the production of the church holiday pageant.
Beth navigates the audience through monumental chaos and confusion created over the simple necessity of recreating the story of the Nativity. Enunciating her words with accurate clarity, a poised Marina Nichols untangles the disparity of the situation, restoring the audience to sanity. Bravo!
This year’s Yuletide show has a familiar plot. Although Barbara Robinson wrote the story in 1972, the machinations – urgency, chaos, bullying, confusion and a lack of clarity – are familiar schemes today. And in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” a family of disorderly children’s interpretation of the story of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter before the birth of Christ is hilarious!
“The Herdmans thought the pageant came right of the FBI files,” Beth tells the audience.
Confusion revolves around the neglected, undesirable Herdman children who disrupt the status-quo – Wilson Rouse as Ralph, who becomes Joseph; Amelia Vaughan as the irreverent, outspoken, Imogene, who volunteers to portray Mary; Abby Knowles who plays the bully Lou-Lou, Jackson and Luke Hershey as Claude and Ollie and the mischievous Charlotte Knowles as Gladys. They’re great!
Beth’s mother, Grace Bradley, played by Christie Wolf, suddenly finds herself as the director of the pageant, a job no one else wants. Christie, however, as other nosy adults in the play, adds to the confusion by yelling her lines in seeming anger.
Distractedly, they all seem to yell with anger, including Carole Pickard as Mrs. Armstrong, Lauren Newell playing Mrs. Slocum and Amie Weir as Mrs. Clausing.
The prolific Della Knowles is beginning to stereotype her portrayals. Her role as Mrs. McCarthy seemed more like a reprisal of Helga Ten Dorp in “Deathtrap,” which she played earlier this Fall.
The teenagers, portraying gossipy youths, bent on intrigue, are much better. Lauren Cunningham plays Alice, Makenzie Pickard is Maxine, Sebastian Magallanes portrays Elmer, Mia Robertson is Holy and Cassidy Wade plays Daisy.
Marshall Cesena delivers as sensible, calming portrayal of Beth’s father, Bob Bradley, as does her younger brother, Charlie, played by Rhett Drennen.
JT Sutek makes his first appearance on the Davidson stage playing both the Reverend and Fireman.
All of the little Angels also make their main-stage debut in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” including Sofia Swade, Violet Schoch, Erin Acker, Hannah King, Claire Kendell, Mackenzie Knowles, Hadley Ashcraft and Emma Devore.
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is directed by Matt Webster with a nondescript, untidy, bare set designed by Phil Rouse – only the images on the back wall deserve credit.
Resurrecting the fading pale-blue curtains between scenes in-lieu of blackouts is awful. They need to be trashed. And the aging red stuffed armchair used in just about every show for the past few years needs a new cover.
Actually, the vigorous Davidson Community Players, which has been dazzling citizens of the Lake Norman area for dozens of years, really needs a new theatre to entertain the community. They’ve outlived the small Armour Street venue.
Although “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” doesn’t hold up to Davidson Community Players’ standards of excellence, it’s just about sold out. Their popular Christmas show always is a sellout – so I have high hopes for next year’s production of “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol.” They wouldn’t dare ruin one of my favorite holiday tales.