It’s one thing to put on a Christmas pageant – it’s another to put on The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
St. Dunstan’s Anglican Church is putting on its own production of Barbara Robinson’s book-turned-TV-movie, a hilarious and heartwarming story about six delinquent children who join a local nativity play, to the dismay of some traditional churchgoers. The 46-volunteer show marks the kickoff to St. Dunstan’s 50th anniversary celebration and is one of the bigger productions the church has put on in recent memory.
“We started off in September sort of rusty and now we’re nearly up to Broadway standards,” said Gillian Millam of St. Dunstan’s with a chuckle.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a play within a play, about a church that has cast the same people for the same roles of its yearly nativity production. The woman who runs the show every year breaks her leg, with the responsibility shifting to Grace Bradley, a single mother of two who has to make sure everything runs smoothly.
But, as usual, not everything goes as planned.
“At the first rehearsal, there’s mention of this family called the Herdmans – they’re the worst kids in the neighbourhood and they’re all sort of rebellious,” said Millam. “They hear about Sunday school and that they’ll get treats and that there’s money about, so they start going to Sunday school.
“They turn up and they take over the pageant. They bully all the other kids and so the Herdmans become Mary and Joseph. It’s really about them going through the stages of understanding nativity and then the final production of the pageant.”
Millam said the show provides a modern twist to your typical church production while maintaining that traditional nature of the standard nativity scene. St. Dunstan’s even has a choir to sing carols alongside the scene.
“You’ve got the comedy and you’ve got some traditional bits with a bit of an edge,” she said. “There’s one-liners for the adults, there’s drama for the kids. It hits the mark for everybody.”
Director Carolyn Stephenson, whose family has been attending St. Dunstan’s for the last 48 years, said putting on the production has been a group effort. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is, “more or less,” her directorial debut, and she credits the hard work of such congregation members as voice coach Eileen Cooper, set designer Judi McKenzie and the Rev. Canon John Steele’s wife Franciane for making it possible.
“Everyone has been very dedicated – they’ve all worked extremely hard,” said Stephenson. “This is quite a new thing for me to be directing and I’m very grateful that I have other people helping with that side of it.”
The congregation has performances scheduled for Dec. 19, 20 and 24 – one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening – with admission by donation. Half of the money raised will go to outreach programs while the other half will go to a fund to sponsor a refugee family from Syria in the Gordon Head area. Additionally, the church will have a bake sale after the performances to contribute to the fundraiser.
St. Dunstan’s hosts shows on Dec. 19 at 2 p.m., Dec. 20 at 10 a.m. and Dec. 24 at 7 p.m. The church is located at 1806 San Juan Ave. For more information, call the church at 250-472-1172 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.