For its Yuletide production, Lake City Playhouse in Coeur d'Alene hopes to spread a little holiday cheer. But The Best Christmas Pageant Ever doesn't start out that way, because somewhere during the course of this pageant, the wheels fall off. At the last minute, Mrs. Bradley is forced to take over as director of the local elementary school's holiday extravaganza, and she's confronted with the six irredeemable Herdman kids. They smoke, they sneer, they insist on filling all the plum roles -- turning Mary, the Mother of God, for example, into a slouching adolescent shrew. In the Barbara Robinson novel which is the basis for the play, however, Beth Bradley comments that, nevertheless, "As far as I'm concerned, Mary is always going to look a lot like Imogene Herdman -- sort of nervous and bewildered, but ready to clobber anyone who laid a hand on her baby."
Spokane's Civic Theater did this show in 1995, and the Valley Rep put on a production in 2000. Lake City director Scott Lockwood accounts for such popularity this way: "It's of religious significance. It's one of the few plays that hasn't been politically corrected: The title is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, not The Best Holiday Pageant. It helps people focus on what's really going on during the Christmas season."
Lockwood also points to signs of hope in the Herdman kids' reformation: "They start out as ruffians, hooligans, but they end up above the standard. These are the kids who came to church to steal candy and drink pop and splash the communion wine -- but at the end, when there's food and drink available, they don't, but instead they leave reverently."
Lockwood is himself experiencing some of the frenzy that his Mrs. Bradley character endures: "At the same time that I'm directing this show, I'm directing a production at my church called "Code Red E.R.," which is turning out to be my own personal Christmas Pageant fiasco."
Having ensured himself a relaxing, tranquil Christmas season, Lockwood no doubt wishes the same to you and yours. Just watch out for the Herdman kids. -- Michael Bowen
Dec. 6-7, 13-14, and 20-21 at 8 pm, Dec. 8 at 2 pm, and Dec. 12 and 19 at 7 pm * Tickets: $8-$12 * Call: 208-667-1323