Jul 28, 2014
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Encore Performs the Very 'Best Christmas Pageant of All'

The show opens this Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Hartland Music Hall with more performances on Dec 1 and Dec. 2.

Looking for a fun, family event to help get into the Christmas spirit?

Then head on over to the Hartland Music Hall starting this Friday where the Encore Children’s Theater will be performing their version of the “Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

It’s the beloved story of the six Herdman siblings and the mayhem that ensues when they become part of the traditional Christmas pageant at the local church.

The story is beautifully narrated through the eyes of Beth Bradley (Kellie Neal) and the audience is taken on a Christmas journey as we re-learn the most important lessons of the birth of baby Jesus.

With Neal’s comfortable and natural presence on stage, the narration of the story is easy to follow and with the arrival of the six scruffy but endearing Herdman kids, my two young boys sitting in the audience perked up in their seats to watch what happened next.

Jenna Koch, portraying Grace Bradley, does a wonderful job of building her character from a low-key wife and mother to the frazzled play director who is faced with the challenge of directing the awkward ensemble into the timeless and reverent Christmas story.

Lamenting the fact that the Herdman children still believe the pageant is some sort of spy story and refereeing a tug-of-war involving baby Jesus, Koch’s frustration is believable to any parent who has ever volunteered to organize anything involving children.

Luckily, poor Grace has her affable and subdued husband, (Trevor Schulz) who, like most good husbands, carries the groceries, consoles his wife and pushes the kids out on stage when needed. Once again, these two young actors are a very sweet couple and work well together on stage giving a realistic performance that many adults can relate to.

The most laughable moments, though, come from Imogene Herdman (Zoe Shettler) and her younger sister, Gladys (Lauren Kreeger.) Wearing beat up tennis shoes, ripped dresses and covered in fake bruises, the two sisters are sweetly, obnoxious as they struggle to understand the story of the first Nativity and why someone else would name Mary’s baby and why wouldn’t the Angel of the Lord just tell the three Wiseman where to go?

In the end, however, the nosy gossipers and the pessimistic naysayers– who all show up to the pageant “just to see what the Herdman kids would do next”– are all treated to a new lesson of Christmas, thanks to the ill-kept and unruly family. 

It’s a sweet lesson and simple reminder for us all about the true meaning of Christmas. The young cast, once again, gives an impressive and enjoyable performance for people of all ages.

Showtimes are Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets are $6 and available at the main branch of the Cromaine Library or by calling 810 632-5849 or at the door half hour before the show.

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