without elvesThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever: At Diamond Head Theatre. Shows 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 8 p.m. Dec. 18 to 20. Tickets $10 to $40. Call 734-0274.
By John BergerDIAMOND Head Theatre's production of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" is a charming story that is beautifully staged by director Sheilah Sealy and an appealing cast. It's a best bet this season for family entertainment.
Special to the Star-Bulletin
The production is burdened however with a gratuitous visit by Santa Claus and singing elves. Santa and his sidekicks open the show with a tedious musical number that has nothing to do with playwright Barbara Robinson's delightful story.
Santa leaves after his performance; the elves do not. Letting them entertain outside the theater before the show is a fine idea, but their five visits in the middle of the show -- like commercials -- brings the story to a halt. These interruptions could be tolerated if they were needed to cover set changes but this is not the case.
Without the elves' interruptions, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" is a charming and sophisticated contemporary parable about the meaning of Christmas and Christ's teachings.
Janel Parrish stars as winsome narrator Beth Bradley. Beth's church stages an annual Nativity pageant. The same self-important woman directs it each year and certain kids came to expect the best roles, until the director breaks her leg.
Beth's mother is drafted as director and the hell-raising progeny of one of the town's lower-rung families, the Herdmans, decide they want the starring roles.
Parrish sparkles throughout but never overplays her role or upstages the other kids. Mindy Tucker does a beautiful job as Beth's mother, Grace Bradley. Every setback and snide comment from the other moms only makes Grace more determined to make the pageant a success. Tucker creates a fine portrait of a decent person who finds new reserves of integrity and strength as she decides to give the unruly kids a chance to prove themselves.
Dennis Proulx, as Bob Bradley, makes a welcome return to the stage as the amiable Ozzie Nelson-styled father.
Sealy gets great performances from kids who could easily be solely cutesy. Kanoa Goo is fabulous as Beth's younger brother Charlie. Katherine Clifton (Gladys Herdman) stands out as the youngest hellion. Bryna O'Neill (Alice) is the prissy snob we love to hate while Chevas Jon Wong (Elmer) has several great moments as a hapless nerd. Nikki Holck (Maxine) creates another entertaining character by maintaining a consistently flat and unemotional mien.
Sean Moulson (Ralph Herdman/Joseph) distinguishes himself in his first major community theater role as the biggest and baddest of the hellions. Julia Ogilvie (Imogene Herdman/Mary) does perfect work as a teen who suddenly grasps the significance of the Christmas story.
Mary Frances Kabel-Gwin (Mrs. Armstrong), Catherine Fong (Mrs. McCarthy) and Tim Moulson (Rev. Hopkins) are the adults who back the kids with solid comic acting.
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