Everybody knows a family like the Herdmans—a little wild, a little unpredictable, a lot rambunctious. Maybe, you’re thinking, that’s your family. Maybe, you’re thinking, that’s the family to stay away from. In Main Street’s adaptation of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, based on the book by Barbara Robinson, the Herdmans are definitely the kids no one wants around.
They smoke cigars. They punch other kids. They run roughshod over everyone. They’re ostracized, and they’re pretty well fine with that. And then, for reasons that are shaky at best, all six of this tribe decide they want to be in the town church's Christmas Eve pageant. What could go wrong?
Main Street first produced the show six years ago and brought it back this year because, according to Main Street's Theater for Youth program director Vivienne St. John, “there were so many children that didn’t see it before because they were too young. The story has a great message, so it was time!”
The show is boisterous and bouncy, with a lot of color and a lot of loud people talking over other loud people. While many Christmas shows emphasize the silence and reverence of the season, this is one that tackles Christmas the way it is for many people out there: the pressure to get something right, with not enough time, a season of giving that can often take so much toll. It’s also written for kids, but offered in a way that might more than touch the heartstrings of adults.
“I love how the Herdmans, a family of six brothers and sisters on welfare, decide to attend Sunday School for the first time just so that they can get free food,” says St. John. “Then when they arrive and hear the Christmas story from the Bible, it touches them, and they are upset about the way Jesus and Mary and Joseph were treated. They identified with being poor and having no food and money and needing shelter.”
The Herdmans’ literal take on the Bible story becomes a pivotal force in the show. In fact, it should offer a multitude of talking points for parents and kids alike. But make no mistake, even though the show is part of the company’s Theater for Youth, there’s plenty in it for those who don’t have kids and just want a lift to their holiday that’s not A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker.
“Adults will find a lot of humor in the show,” St. John says. “Audiences should expect lots of fun. The Theater for Youth is professional adults performing for children and families. We make the shows entertaining for the adults in the audience—they will not regret coming.”
Runs thru Dec. 21. MATCH, 3400 Main Street. Go to mainstreettheater.com for more information.