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'Best Christmas Pageant Ever' brings new life to an old story

Mrs. Bradley (Aleisha Miller), explains the part of the Angel in the annual Christmas Pageant to Gladys Herdman (Ava Wasowicz) during the River Falls Community Theatre production of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." Gretta Stark / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Imogene Herdman (Vivienne Davis), left, as Mary, burps "baby Jesus" in "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" while Ralph Herdman (Ben Simpson, right), looks on. The play is being presented by River Falls Community Theatre this weekend at the Unitarian Universalist Society. Gretta Stark / RiverTown Multimedia.2 / 2

River Falls Community Theatre's production of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" lives up to its name, sharing with audiences the heart and hilarity of the original novel.

Like the beloved classic, the play tells the story of a small town and a family of "the worst kids in the history of the world," the Herdmans: Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claud, and Gladys.

The Herdmans come to church for free snacks and shock the kids and adults in town by taking over the annual Christmas pageant.

The rest of the town reacts to the Herdmans' presence in the pageant, and how it changes their perspective on the traditional Nativity story. As the Herdmans have never heard the Christmas story before, their fresh perspective breathes new life into the telling of a "new" Biblical Nativity story, coloring it with their own perceptions. So too, the River Falls Community Theatre's cast and director Peter Bloch bring a "new Best Christmas Pageant Ever."

Under Bloch's direction, the cast brings to life the mix of heartwarming and hilarious moments that truly makes the story what it is.

Aleisha Miller and Daniel Wasowicz as Mr. and Mrs. Bradley, Elizabeth Baillargeon and Clalire Ireland as Beth and Charlotte brought to life a typical family, as Mrs. Bradley organizes the Christmas pageant.

Ben Simpson, James Waldvogel, Riley Culver, Vivienne Davis and Ava Wasowicz portray the Herdman children, with their disregard for rules, penchant for bullying and curiosity for the pageant. Their energy brings the rowdy Herdman family to life.

The cast includes:

Aleisha Miller, Alex Simpson, Ava Wasowicz, Ben simpson, Patrice Veit, Calvin Ireland, Claire Ireland, Daniel Wasowicz, Elizabeth Baillargeon, Ellie Krueger, Grace-Ana-Rose Sewall Hardy, Graham Wasowicz, Hailey King, Harvey Bowden, James Waldvogel, Jody Sather, Kerrigan Culver, Kira Sonnee, Linley Alastar Sewall Hardy, Lauren Evans, Madilyn Carlson, Nathan Ireland, Niki Miller, Oliver King, Olivia King, Riley Culver, Samantha Miller, Sebastian Bowden and Vivienne Davis.

Staged in the Unitarian Universalist Society building, the setting draws the audience into the telling of a small-town Christmas pageant. The costuming, scenery and creative use of space further draw the audience into the world of the show. Characters dressed in their Sunday best, or in their pageant outfits, a mix of bathrobes and bedsheet angel costumes, add to the atmosphere of the play. And characters making creative use of the aisle also bring the action to the audience at some moments.

All in all the excellent performance captures the feel-good story of a hometown pageant.

This family-friendly performance is great for younger children through adults.

Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday Dec. 7 and 8, at the Unitarian Universalist Society, N8010 Highway 65.

Tickets are available at the door for $10 for adults and $5 for students.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(651) 301-7849
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