"Christmas Pageant" the best ever at Lincoln Playhouse
By Ladd Wendelin
In Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, two often-overlooked spirits appear in Stave Three, out from under the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Present, an impoverished boy and a girl by the names of Ignorance and Want. Dickens describes them as “yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish…Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing.”
With a flourish of his pen, Dickens also seems to have created the initial character sketches for what would become Barbara Robinson’s ragtag gang of juvenile delinquent siblings, The Herdmans, in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which runs now through December 18th at the Lincoln Community Playhouse (56th and Normal). However, Dickens never anticipated that Ignorance and Want, symbolic characters of poverty and social inequality, would eventually take up cigar smoking and stealing lunch money, terrorize and even reinvigorate the Nativity in their own unique way.
The Herdmans are your typical troubled behavioral cases led by Imogene Herdman (Mackenzie Bretz), her four brothers, Ralph (Andrew Ojeda), Leroy (Nick Fullerton), Claude (Matt Loudon), Ollie (Jack Christenson), and the youngest Gladys (Ingrid Gessert). Having made a name for themselves in the school hallways through random acts of assault and battery, the Herdmans catch wind of the annual Christmas pageant. Chaos soon plagues the rehearsals leading up to the performance.
Director Summer Wildham and a large cast of youngsters bring plenty of zip and energy to their individual roles and the pageant itself, which is memorable, heartwarming and hilarious to say the least. There is a purity and innocence in children’s Christmas pageants that brings meaning and perspective to an always hectic month, and with some theatrical whimsy to spare, there’s little reason to resist the Playhouse’s holiday offering. Come for the Herdmans, stay for a cameo appearance by Lampchop and a dog masquerading as a sheep, not to mention excellent performances from Ingrid Gessert as Gladys, and Emily Jobson and Matthew Hakel as Beth and Charley Bradley.
In the magic and mystery of the holiday season, even the hardest of hearts, no matter what their age or criminal record, find personal redemption in the Christmas story. As the Herdmans prove, the birth of Christ was hardly an ordinary event, but the best ever.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever runs through December 18th with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thurs. – Fri., 2:00 p.m. Sat.-Sun. with an added 5:00 p.m. show on Sat, Dec. 17th. TIckets are $10 general admission and can be purchased by calling the box office at 402-489-7529 or order online at www.lincolnplayhouse.com