A Festive Stage

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever opens at Vanity Theater


Hey! Unto you a child is born! This Christmas, the Vanity Theater will put on a Christmas pageant like Crawfordsville has never seen before in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical. The show, which takes the stage this weekend, is based on the 1980s children’s book by the same name.

Grace Bradley (Lora Burris) is asked to take over the annual church Christmas pageant. Everything is running smoothly until the Herdmans claim all of the main roles. This mean and nasty bunch of siblings — Ralph (Cameron Tyo), Imogene (Beth Turner), Leroy (Brayden Stedge), Claude (Terran McCarty), Ollie (Caden Tyo) and Gladys (Emma Berry) — cause trouble wherever they go. Will the Herdmans ruin the Christmas pageant? Or will it somehow become the best Christmas pageant ever?

“[It shows] the whole thing of judging people ... the Herdmans are judged ... and then the other kids have to figure out what it’s like to accept kids who are different than they are. That’s what Christmas is all about,” said Betsy Strain, who makes her debut performance as Mrs. Armstrong in the show.

“My favorite part is probably acting all mean. I’m not mean. I’m more of the kind, motherly person,” said Beth Turner, who plays Imogene, the leader of the Herdmans. “But, it’s fun acting.”

When asked why people should come see the show, Turner adds, “It’s a classic Christmas story, but we’re putting music to it and ... it can be really energetic. It’s like a roller coaster, an emotional roller coaster.”

While The Best Christmas Pageant Ever tells a simple Christmas story, it also does a great job of revealing some hidden truths about human nature — namely, the reluctance to accept those who are different. The play shows how even those who are supposed to welcome others can fear those who are different.

“The main story of it is ... not usually what you hear for Christmas,” Turner said. “Usually Christmas ... if you’re not religious, it’s presents. If you are religious, it’s Jesus. Not a whole lot of people usually think of the people who are not religious but who also don’t have enough money for presents.”

An uplifting Christmas story, catchy new songs and more than a dozen kids and adults singing and dancing their way across a festive Christmas stage should be good reason for anyone to come see The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!

The show features Cameron Tyo as Ralph Herdman, Beth Turner as Imogene Herdman, Brayden Stedge as Leroy Herdman, Terran McCarty as Claude Herdman, Caden Tyo as Ollie Herdman, Emma Berry as Gladys Herdman, Lora Burris as Grace Bradley, Alan Hobson as Bob Bradley, Jesse Acton as Charlie Bradley, Anna Hale as Beth Bradley, Betsey Strain as Helen Armstrong, Evan Baldwin as Reverend Hopkins, Jennifer Tyo as Luanne, Dee Osterhoudt as Betty, Liberty Owens as Connie, Madelyn Schnelle as Alice Wendleken, Nivek Witt as Elmer Hopkins, Lennon Woods as Teddy Shoemaker, and Caroline Bowling as Ivy Reed. Kari Ann VanCleave, Elizabeth Jeffries, Jaycee Farris, Kelli Bowling, Cindy Turner, Jeff Stedge, Melanie Baldwin, and David Tyo portray congregation members. Brayden Hoeferle, Scarlett Parker, Lily Baldwin, Phaedra Douglas, Marisa Mermoud, Coleman Burris, Adore Burris, Adalynn Burris, Edwin Burris, Graye Jeffries, and Orion Durbin play roles as pageant kids.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is sponsored by Hoosier Heartland State Bank, directed by Evelyn Kaelin, musically directed by Liberty Owens, and produced by Jennifer Tyo.

Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Dec. 13-14 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 15.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.sugarcreekplayers.org; by calling 765-362-7077; or by going to the box office, which is open 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Friday during performance weeks or one hour before the show starts.


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