Familiar children’s modern classic opens at Olathe theatre

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The worst kids in town, the Herdman’s muscled their way into the local church because of foretold cookies, Twinkies, sweets, cakes and more, turning up the day of the casting of the church’s traditional Christmas Pageant that celebrates the birth of Jesus.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, just about everything. No one wanted to compete against any of them for the lead parts; no one wanted physical abuse by the Herdman’s hands (or fists); and no one believed Christmas Pageant could succeed without the leadership/direction of Mrs. Armstrong.

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Naive and trusting, Grace steps up to direct the pageant, only to discover the show looms larger than life, and the expectancy of doom await–despite her positive attitude. The show must go on–in spite of the Herdmans, a cigar smoking Imogene Herdman, an over rambunctious Gladys Herdman, a fire that burnt all the applesauce cakes, props and costumes that do not quite fit the Christmas pageant, an angel chorus (who don’t know all the words to the carols), and the fact that the Herdmans do not know the Christmas story or the implications of the Bible.

Wrap all that up, and “The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever” springs fourth on stage at Olathe Civic Theatre Association (OCTA) for their holiday production. The show features a wealth of young actors; and, some new, undeveloped performers, who make their stage debut in this production. Peppered in with the novices are young actors with some previous stage experience. What a great blend of skills to make the show so much fun to watch. Some display their acting skills, while others get their first turn in the footlights. The resulting show is a delight to watch.

Give lots of credit to the production team who makes this awkward and funny family show work. The story is well known and a good read. The problem is that the script is not well-conceived as a theater piece. It’s still fun and great for family entertainment.

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The charming story needs to be revised and lengthened a bit to provide a less choppy first act. The script fails in this aspect, and no director can fix what’s not there. The show needs to be taken over by a major playwright, songs, dance, and flash added and the show could play big venues. Act II works quite well because the focus is the church and rehearsals. Humor comes through from the beginning, and everyone in the audience will recognize the Mrs. Armstrong character–there is one in every neighborhood–past and present.

The cast is: Maddie Amplemann, Chuck Chambers, Mina Foster, Andrew Guyer, Thomas Hardy, Alyiah Hart, Stephanie Kassen, Ken Kasten, Meredith

The OCTA cast of "The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever."

[/media-credit] The OCTA cast of “The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever.”

Kiesling, Brian King, Madeline King, Megan King, Lindsay Lovejoy, Nate Lundgrun, Ava Masterson, Julia Masterson, Andrew McClung, Claire McClung, Ella Mc Clung, Julie McClung, Lucy McClung, Nathan McClung, Elliana Moore, Brock Olsen, Crew Shafer, Ace Stone, Heather Tinker, Jennifer Ward, Layne White, Caroline Wise. The production staff is Lana Jensen, director; Kevin Bogan, musical director; Michael James, stage manager; Harold Eastman, set design; Mandy Stone, properties design; Camile Leach, lighting design.

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“The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever” continues weekends through Dec. 18.  The show is great fun and wonderful for families and the holiday season. Children know the story and would enjoy seeing it performed live. This is a great show for an evening out and is appropriate for all ages. There is no adult content or adult language. For more information, tickets, times, dates, etc, go to the OCTA website.

Tags: OCTA, Olathe Civic Theatre Association, Kansas City, Kansas City Theater, Comedy, Holiday, Performing Arts, Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Theater, “The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever”

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