Sometimes unexpected people can make you take a deeper look at life.
That’s the Herdman family’s impact on a church congregation in Olympic Theatre Arts’ production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
Marissa Meek and Taylor Dowley direct Barbara Robinson’s comedic pageant within a play based on her children’s book.
The shows runs on weekends Dec. 2-18, at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.
The final dress rehearsal, 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, is pay-what-you-will.
Georgia Bullard narrates as Beth Bradley, to provide the Herdmans’ history of bullying and petty crime and how school kids came to fear them.
With “Best Christmas Pageant Ever” being a novel first and so beloved, Meek said “it’s nice to have the author’s voice through the narration as there’s a lot of funny things in the novel that wouldn’t come out in dialogue.”
Bullard read the novel before, and said she feels it asks people to look deeper at one another.
“It’s about acceptance and being welcoming to everyone,” Bullard said.
“You don’t know what’s happening in someone’s life.”
The six Herdmans come to church after they’re misled to believe it has cakes, candy and desserts. They show up for treats, and instead wind up being cast in the church pageant.
Meek said the Herdmans are the only ones to be excited to do the play.
“To them it’s new and beautiful,” she said. “Everyone is tired of the same old story and way of doing things.”
Shannon Bertucci plays Bullard’s “Mother” and takes on the pageant after Mrs. Armstrong, its previous longtime director, breaks her leg.
Bertucci performs with her four children ages 5-12 — with eldest Izzy playing a Herdman — after performing in OTA’s “The Hobbit” last summer.
She said she wasn’t familiar with the “Best Christmas Pageant Ever” but said Meek “sold me on it.”
“I love the Herdmans; I love the idea that these ‘bad’ kids come into church and in the end find a place to be, a sense of peace,” Bertucci said.
“The whole community celebrates them in a way. It’s not only funny, but also beautiful.”
Meek echoed that sentiment:“For me the main message is that being open to things and people is always going to yield something beautiful.”
“As a former teacher, I saw that,” she said. “It doesn’t always have to be the ‘best’ kids. Everyone’s trying to get the best out of life. Some go about it in tricky ways.”
More than 30 children appear in the play as OTA continues to expand its family productions.
“We’re trying to jump-start the youth programs, and (“Best Christmas Pageant Ever”) also fits well in a tight schedule,” Meek said.
“We’ve also wanted our youth program to incorporate adults as well, so this is a true community theater. We have several families and I like mixing adults and kids. We’ve got people in their 70s and under 7.”
She said the biggest challenge so far is that playing the “bad” children seems more fun than the “good” children in the play, as there are some chaotic but hilarious moments.
“They’ve been a fantastic cast,” Meek said.
“It’s so much fun to do a Christmas show (because) it’s such a fun time of year and it’s exciting to share that with people.”
The show will feature retro snapshot photographs displayed on the theater screen that Meek said makes it “feel like one of the golden ages of Christmas when parents remember when their kids were kids, and those kids remember being kids.”
Said Meek, “We’re playing up on that nostalgia.”
Each intermission, ticket goers can also take their own pictures with Santa Claus, and Peninsula Singers will sing carols. Sequim Community Aid will also be on hand to accept donations for Toys for Sequim Kids.
For tickets, visit olympictheatrearts.org or call the OTA box office 1-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday at 360-683-7326.
Next year, OTA ramps up its youth events starting with a theater camp from 3:30-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, Jan. 9-13, and 16-20 with “Happily Ever After” featuring fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm.
Two shows will run on Jan. 21.
Fees apply with an early registration discount, a sibling discount, and scholarships available. More camps and shows to come in the spring and summer too. See OTA’s website at olympictheatrearts.org for more details.
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”
By Barbara Robinson
Showtimes: 7 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, Dec. 2-3, 9-10, 16-17; 2 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 4, 11, 18; pay what you will 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1
Tickets: $20 general, $15 students, available online at olympictheatrearts.org, or call box office 1-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 360-683-7326.