‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ at the Washington County Playhouse

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, presented at the Washington County Playhouse, is a ‘must-see’ for the whole family this holiday season.

This hilarious production, lovingly adapted from the children’s book of the same name, tells the story of the struggles faced by Grace Bradley (Katie Tolentino), who has been nominated to direct the church Christmas pageant, after Mrs. Armstrong, (Claudia Patterson), the lady who always directs the show, is sidelined by injury.

L to R: Madalyn Johnston (Alice Wendleken) and Gabrielle Tokach (Imogene Herdman). Photo by Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer of Herald-Mail Media.
L to R: Madalyn Johnston (Alice Wendleken) and Gabrielle Tokach (Imogene Herdman) in rehearsal. Photo by Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer of Herald-Mail Media.

Everyone is expecting the same pageant as every other year, until the Herdman children decide they want to be involved. These six children from the wrong side of the tracks, who smoke, cuss, and terrorize the other children in town by beating them up and stealing their lunches, are lured by the promise of cookies and other sweets provided to the kids at church. These children bully their way into having all the lead roles in the pageant, and everyone in town knows this production is going to be disaster, until the children learn the story of the first Christmas and the magic of the holiday turn it into the best Christmas pageant ever.

Director Laura Martin has done a beautiful job staging this production with a cast of 37, mostly children, in a very small venue. The sets are minimal, but nothing more is needed as the action onstage is constant. It is obvious that Martin has a love for the show, and it shines through in the actors’ performances.

Twelve-year-old Caroline Bowers, plays Beth Bradley, who narrates the story and keeps the story moving. She is absolutely delightful in the role, doing a marvelous job connecting with both the audience and the other characters in the show.

The cast in rehearsal. Photo by Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer of Herald-Mail Media.
The cast in rehearsal. Photo by Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer of Herald-Mail Media.

The Herdman children, Ralph (Andrew Pregartner), Imogene (Ally Moore), Leroy (Jordan Moore), Claude (Arrick Smith), Ollie (Jacob Wilson), and Gladys (Katelynn Mueller), are hysterical as they attempt to re-intrepret the Christmas story while bullying the other kids and each other. These kids had the audience in stitches every time they entered the stage until the end when their characters discovered the true story of the first Christmas, showing the transformation beautifully.

There were over twenty children in the ensemble of this production, and each of them were an absolute delight to watch. Madalyn Johnston, who played Alice Wendleken the know-it-all snob who doesn’t try to keep her opinions to herself, performs the role with just enough snark to be funny but doesn’t take it to the point of being obnoxious.

The adult ensemble was wonderful as well. Standout performances were given by Allison Banzhoff, Terry Moore, and Claudia Patterson.

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever plays through December 19, 2015  on the weekends, at The Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater and Children’s Theater – 44 North Potomac Street, in Hagerstown, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 739-7469, or purchase them online.

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