Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

November 29, 2012

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Children’s play remembers the reason for the season

VALDOSTA — Besides being a funny comedy, Gingerbread Players of Theatre Guild Valdosta will mine a message from playwright Barbara Robinson’s “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

“Sometimes, the ones you think need to learn the lesson are the ones who teach the lesson,” says Lois Allbritton, the show’s director.

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is the story of six children who have never attended church. They arrive at a worship service for the free snacks. The Herdman children are a wild bunch. Through a series of unexpected events, the Herdmans replace the regular church children to perform the principal roles in the Christmas pageant. The regular church-goers are none too happy that these wild ones will tell the Christmas story from a different perspective.

In the show, the regular pageant director breaks her leg, leading to the character Grace Bradley taking her place. Mrs. Bradley ends up casting the Herdman children.

As the first-time director of a Gingerbread Players performance, Allbritton empathizes with Grace Bradley.

Though she has worked as an assistant director in past productions, Allbritton says she often said during the past weeks of rehearsals she has been living “the Grace Bradley experience,” feeling a bit overwhelmed by her new responsibilities of directing a story as well-known as “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

“What could I bring to this story, and the story within it, that would be fresh and new?” Allbritton writes in her director’s notes. “It turns out I didn’t need to bring anything but an open mind and an open heart. I learned people aren’t always as easily categorized as you think, and even a story as old as the birth of Jesus can hold new and exciting lessons.”

Unlike Grace Bradley, Allbritton says she has been blessed with many supportive people and families.

She says the show is the “final product of much hard work and dedication on the part of over 40 cast and crew members plus their families and friends. Rehearsals were four days per week, two to four hours each, and set builds were every Saturday for the better part of two months. Our set manager and her crew worked from early morning to late into the night, Thanksgiving included. They, along with our costuming and props and tech crews, help our cast bring this renowned book to bigger than life.”

In presenting this show, the creative production crew has literally created a book larger than life. The backdrops are a series of cleverly designed pages painted onto massive canvasses that are closer in size and structure to the sails of a ship. A three-person crew turns these tapestry-sized backdrops which hang individually from a series of metal poles, fastened to rotate like flipping the pages of a book.

The giant pages are appropriate. The Gingerbread Players youngsters have a big story to tell.

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