BWW Review: SCERA's THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: THE MUSICAL is a Feel-Good Utah Premiere
The Utah premiere of THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: THE MUSICAL, presented by the SCERA Center for the Arts, is a great family night out for the holidays.
THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: THE MUSICAL (book and lyrics by Jahnna Becham, music and lyrics by Malcolm Hillgartner) is based on the seasonal favorite book and play by Barbara Robinson. When the town hellions, the Herdman children, threaten to take all the lead roles in the church Christmas pageant, the adults are worried that the sacred nature of the nativity will be lost. The kids are just scared. But maybe the pageant won't actually be ruined after all.
The new musical adaptation is uneven, with some of the charm and humor of the original lost. However, some of the songs are winners, such as "Hey Mrs. Bradley," "My Mother Said" (cleverly sung to the tune of "Carol of the Bells"), "Die Herod Die" and "On a Night Like This."
These sequences are also assisted by enthusiastic performances and choreography by Brodee Ripple, as well as striking lighting by Elizabeth Griffiths.
The show is set in the 1970s, with some fun period costuming by Deborah Bowman and a set by Shawn M. Mortensen that works well to evoke the time and place (especially the Bradley's home and Christmas tree).
The unruly gang of Herdmans, played by Eli Hackworth as Ralph, Anna Kocherhans as Imogene (with her strong singing voice a highlight), Timothy J. Quesenberry as Leroy, Caleb Riding as Claude, Malcome Smith as Ollie, and Emme Chaffin as Gladys, are funny and touching.
Joining them in leading the cast with enjoyable performances is the Bradley family, played by Julia Jolley as Grace, Garret W. Smit as Bob (with his natural, droll acting another highlight), Abby Johnson as Beth and Everett Fairbourne as Charlie.
Like the material, this production is a bit uneven with some of the design and performances not quite matching the quality of the rest. The production has a stagey feel to it, but the community theatre vibe fits the subject of the show, and it's easy to forgive with the entertaining execution, contagious enthusiasm, and feel-good result.
If THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER is a holiday tradition for you and your family, you won't want to miss the opportunity to see it with this new musical twist. And if you're not familiar with the hilarious, heartwarming classic, even more imperative that you see what all the fuss is about.
THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: THE MUSICAL plays through December 15, 2018. For tickets, call the box office at 801-225-ARTS (2787) or visit www.scera.org.
Photo Credit: Photo by Rachael Gibson, courtesy SCERA.