It’s bedlam in Bethlehem as the annual Christmas pageant is under way for Seattle Public Theater. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever directed by Shana Bestock is back for its thirteenth year. This high energy, heartfelt show is a melee of child actors clearly having the time of their lives. The young actors are comfortable in their roles as this tight-knit theater community enjoys their annual tradition to the delight of theater goers of all ages.
Shana Bestock expertly orchestrates the chaos as sixteen children and four adults crowd the intimate thrust of the Bathhouse Theater. Bob (Steven Sterne) and Grace (Kathy Hsieh) are rocks in the center, as their emotionally honest performances ground the mayhem around them as they and fellow adult actors David Hsieh as Mr. Slocum, and Alysha Curry as Mrs. Armstrong manage to be adorable, just as the pandemonium of child actors show the maturity of learning the art of theater.
Natural comedian Charlie (Aaron Sterne) complains loudly as the six Herdman siblings bully their way to center stage. Ralph (Jake Gordon), Imogene (Olivia Sterne), Leroy (Frank Garland), Claude (Samuel Trott), Ollie (Aliza Crosgrove), and Gladys (Zoe Poole) are the misfit bullies from the broken Herdman family, and their mean spirits are portrayed well by these up and coming actors.
In a play that preaches “there are no small parts, only small actors” lets not forget the ensemble who play their small parts with gusto and charm. Noah J. Rose, for instance, earns his laugh as David crawling on stage dressed as a sheep and earnestly bleating out his line.
The contrast of the Herdmans and the “normal” kids is highlighted by the costumes (Courtney Kessler). The Herdmans all in black, as punks of their age should be, and the other kids as well as the adults in this production dressed in bright colors and vivid patterns. Prissy in pink Izabel Mar puts in a very believable turn as innocent Alice at the center of this education in playground politics. The wardrobe reflects well the theme of contrasting ignorance and innocence as the Herdmans learn all about the Christmas story, and predictably turn it all around as they deliver a Christmas ham to the baby Jesus, just in time to show they have learned their lesson, and incidentally taught their peers tolerance and the true meaning of Christmas. If you miss the lesson, not to worry, narrator Beth (Anna Klein) will kindly fill in the gaps.
In the end the show is a Christmas miracle, as Bestock governs the anarchy with her intimate knowledge of this production. We can trust her as our resident expert, as her history with what she coyly calls BXPE goes back to 1983 when she played Gladys in the 2nd production ever of this Christmas classic.
THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER runs December 6th-24th at The Bathhouse Theater on Greenlake – 7312 W. Greenlake Drive N. – (206) 524-1300
http://seattlepublictheater.org/events-christmas-pageant.htm for showtimes and tickets.