A Review of THS Drama’s Presentation of ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!’

A Review of THS Drama’s Presentation of ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’
By Amanda Weatherwax

Oxford, OH — It may be a tad bit too early for holiday music in my opinion, but it’s always the right time to watch Talawanda students perform. On Sat., Nov. 12, THS Drama staged a matinee performance of Barbara Robinson’s ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ which featured the acting and stage crew talents of area kindergarten through twelfth graders.

Directed by Melanie Mortimer, THS Drama Director, and stage managed by THS senior Ellie Radlinski, the play had something for audiences of all ages including jokes, stage fighting, and of course, holiday song staples.

The play, based on a 1971 children’s novel of the same name by Barbara Robinson, tells the story of Grace Bradley (portrayed by THS senior Taylor Callahan) trying to direct her church’s Christmas Pageant featuring the Herdman children who are stereotypical “bad kids” from the wrong side of the tracks.

The Herdman kids had never been to Sunday school until they learned that the church gave out free snacks. Each Herdman child volunteers for a main role in the Christmas pageant (and bullies the other children into not volunteering) but soon learns “the true meaning of Christmas” when they hear and perform the Christmas story for the first time. It turns out that the Herdmans’ performances surprise the entire town who showed up expecting mayhem but instead wound up witnessing the Herdmans giving their family’s welfare ham to the baby Jesus just as the magi had brought him gifts.

Taylor Callahan had an outstanding performance as the kind and exhausted new pageant director, Mrs. Grace Bradley. There was a very enjoyable moment when the former pageant director, Mrs. Armstrong (ninth grader Amaria Sanford) who was hospitalized for a broken leg was wheeled onto the stage in a gurney hospital bed for a phone call with Mrs. Bradley (Callahan). Both actresses did not miss a beat pantomiming the call in real time from opposite sides of the stage.

Sixth grader Monica Femiani had some of the most lines to memorize as she played Mrs. Bradley’s daughter Beth (the show’s caring and observant narrator). Fellow sixth grader Cory Troxel played a typical kid brother Charlie Bradley and Bruce Wilson played her witty father Bob Bradley. It was evident that Mortimer and crew wanted to juxtapose the Bradley family’s stability and togetherness with the Herdman children’s less fortunate situation through the set design that featured the Bradley family dining table on stage right with the church setting upstage

All six Herdman children were particularly well cast and did a great job and two of them really stole the entire show.

First, TMS eighth grader Olive Rice who portrayed the rough and tumble turned tender Imogene Herdman. One of the toughest to act moments of that show had to be the spotlit moment where Rice had to stand for a few minutes in silence rocking a baby Jesus doll.

Next, the hilarious star of the show was most definitely second grader Reese Bystrom who portrayed the funny and high-energy Gladys Herdman. Bystrom’s performance had the two people sitting in front of me laughing so hard that their laughter made me laugh. She nailed all of her “Shazams!” and she is definitely one to watch in the future of Talawanda drama.

The play will be running in the Talawanda High School Performing Arts Center on Sat. Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. and again on Sun. Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8.00 at the door.