The folks at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre wanted a funny-yet-meaningful Christmas play that could involve lots of kids. Boy, did they find it. “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” — which opened Thursday — includes 19 young performers, six of whom play “the worst kids in the world.”
They’re the delinquent Herdman clan, known for running roughshod over their small town, who make their first visit to the local church after getting wind of free snacks. Before long, hurricane Herdman has taken over the Christmas production and overwhelmed the novice director. Members of the church see disaster ahead.
Playwright Barbara Robinson based the play on her based her best-selling 1972 book, which was first a story in McCall’s magazine.
“I first read this book when I was a kid and thought it was hilarious,” said Barb Jeffress, who is co-directing with Pam Johnson. “My oldest daughter took part in a production when she was about 8, and the stage adaptation is very true to the book. So, when we were looking for a Christmas production for JRT that could involve a lot of kids, this one immediately came to mind.”
The production, which also includes eight grown-ups, is filled with families playing families — three Gowards, two Butlers, three Mangiacottis, two Newcombs are sprinkled throughout the cast list. And the show, which runs about an hour, is aimed at families.
“We hope lots of area families will make it a part of their celebration of the holiday season,” Jeffress said.
“One of my favorite things about theater is the way it can make people laugh at the same time that it raises serious questions about deeper issues — in this case, the true meaning of the Christmas story,” said Jeffress. “We thought ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ would be a fun show to bring to the community this year for the holidays and we hope it makes them laugh and perhaps reflect on their own faith and how it impacts others.”
Performances will be at 7 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 18. The Saturday, Dec. 10, show will begin at 8 p.m. because of the Jonesborough Christmas Parade.
Tickets are $14, $12 for seniors and students, and are available at www.jonesboroughtheatre.com or by calling 753-1010.
The theater is at 1251â„2 W. Main St., in downtown Jonesborough.