Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Best Christmas Pageant Ever Really is the Best!

Nobody likes the Herdmans, six of the meanest, roughest, toughest, poorest kids in the neighborhood. Which is why, when the whole herd of Herdmans shows up at Sunday school (they've heard it's a source of never-ending snacks), the other kids are terrified. After all, the only reason they go to church is because the Herdmans don't.

But when the Herdmans strong arm themselves into the major roles in the annual Christmas Pageant, terror turns into mortification. Even the church ladies are less than Christian when they get word that Imogene Herdman has claimed the part of the Virgin Mary and her horrible brother the role of Joseph. In fact, not a single mother will offer up her baby to play the infant Jesus, with any of the Herdmans within 100 feet of the manger.

With mayhem a constant factor when the Herdmans are present, no one, but no one, expects the show to be anything but a debacle and certainly not "the best Christmas pageant ever," as show director Grace Bradley promises. That would take a miracle …

Seattle Public Theater's 10th Anniversary production of Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is just that – one of the best stagings of the 2010 winter holiday season. What makes it so? Partially, it's solid performances by the show's ensemble of young actors. And partially, it's Imogene Herdman's hair – one of the best bad hairdos I've ever seen on someone in this role (in this case, actress Cori Jacobi). If I had an infant, that hair alone would stop me from laying him down in the manger – no matter how special it might be to play the baby messiah.

But mostly, at the top of the list, are the simply hilarious performances by Lisa Branham as Grace and Tracie Leigh as Helen Armstrong, the micromanaging busy-body church lady who usually directs the annual pageant but who has been laid low by two broken arms this season. They had me and my 12-year-old son in stitches, along with most of the audience surrounding us, at recent show.

Under the direction of Seattle Public Theater's Artistic Director Shana Bestock, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is fun for all ages, a farcical romp through every church's auditorium and a heartwarming retelling of the story of Christmas. It's got its stereotypes – like big families with delinquent kids must be on welfare and church lady and bad Christmas sweaters go hand-in-hand – but in the end, my irritation with these (which I feel every time I've seen this play, which was written in 1972) is mostly replaced with warm fuzzies and holiday cheer.



Where: Seattle Public Theater at the Bathhouse, 7312 West Green Lake Dr. N., Seattle.

When: Through Dec. 24, 4 p.m.

Cost: Adults $25, seniors $23, youth (25 and under) $15

Contact: 206-524-1300; Purchase tickets at

About the Author

Cheryl Murfin