The Hippo


Dec 12, 2019








Windham Actors Guild presents The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Courtesy photo.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever 

Where: Searles School & Chapel, 3 Chapel Road, Windham
When: Friday, Dec. 8, and Saturday, Dec. 9, 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 10, 2 p.m. 
Tickets: $12.50 for adults, $10.50 for youth and seniors 
More info:

Holiday hijinks
Windham Actors do The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

By Angie Sykeny

 Colleen Strang hasn’t performed on stage in 12 years. Instead, she’s been involved with local productions behind the scenes — stage managing, directing, costuming, prop making, set designing. But when the Windham Actors Guild announced that it would produce The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Strang decided it was time to make her acting comeback. 

The show opens on Friday, Dec. 8, at Searles School & Chapel in Windham. Based on the 1971 book by Barbara Robinson, it tells the story of a church putting on its annual children’s Christmas pageant. The pageant is always directed by Mrs. Armstrong and often stars the same children in the same roles, but that all changes when Mrs. Armstrong falls ill and Mrs. Bradley, one of the moms at the church, is roped into taking her place. 
For Strang, the role of Mrs. Bradley was too perfect. She herself has been coordinating the children’s Christmas pageant at Saint Thomas Aquinas Church in Derry for more than 10 years. 
“I really have to love a show or really feel like it will be the right fit before I audition,” she said, “and this felt like a good opportunity to have some fun and get comfortable on stage again, because I’m used to working with kids, and I can definitely relate to the part.” 
The story’s conflict arises when the notoriously badly behaved Herdman children stop by to scope out the church for free food and arrive just as Mrs. Bradley is about to assign the parts for the pageant. Despite Mrs. Bradley’s urging, none of the other children volunteer, and the Herdmans end up taking all of the major roles. The rest of the show follows Mrs. Bradley through a series of mishaps as she tries to get the children ready for the pageant. She’s determined to prove to the rest of the church that she can put on the best Christmas pageant ever, even with the Herdmans. 
“It’s a very cute and simple show, with straight slapstick comedy,” the show’s producer, Keith Strang, said. 
The show does have some serious moments, however, like when Mrs. Bradley realizes that the Herdmans have never heard the Christmas story before, and it’s suggested that the Herdmans’ bad behavior is a result of neglect. 
“What I love about the Herdmans is that they represent the people in our lives who we see and misunderstand or pass judgement on,” Colleen Strang said, “but if you pause long enough to engage with them, cool things happen, and you may see that you were wrong. I think that will really resonate with people.” 
The cast consists of 26 actors, only six of whom are adults. While none of the children are quite as rambunctious as the Herdman characters, Colleen Strang said, working with that many children can get chaotic at times. As one who coordinates a pageant in real life, Strang is no stranger to the challenge, and that experience has helped her further develop the character of Mrs. Bradley. 
“She has a frantic nature, but a good heart,” she said. “She wants to do right by the pageant and really connect with the kids and make the pageant successful, and that is very relatable for me.” 
Keith Strang said The Best Christmas Pageant Ever isn’t commonly produced in the region, and the production will give people an opportunity to see something different from what is usually done by local theater companies during the holiday season.
“It’s nice to be able to do a show that’s still a traditional Christmas story, but not cliche,” he said. “It’s not A Christmas Carol or Miracle on 34th Street or The Nutcracker. People can come out and see something about Christmas that they’ve never seen before and laugh and leave feeling good.”

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