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Still time to see CAST's entertaining 'Best Christmas Pageant Ever'

On Dec. 7, in the newly carpeted Mission Theater, CAST Productions presented “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” With a large cast of performers the comedy continues December 12, 13 and 14.

Barbara Robinson wrote the book in the early seventies and then modified it for stage performances. The story begins as Grace Bradley is chosen as director of a church Christmas pageant because the reigning director of 14 years has broken her leg. Then, the dreaded Herdman kids – six of them – are lured to the pageant due to a promise of food. Though the food initially draws them, the truth of the Christmas story keeps them. These children, who had a reputation as bullies and all-around bad kids, are transformed by learning the miracle of the Christmas story.

Most of the cast members who were present during the first weekend will be back for the second weekend, with the exception of the Bradley family, who has been double-cast. The Bradley family I had the pleasure to watch included Mark Story as Bob Bradley, a believable father who is not too excited about attending the pageant but ends up helping anyway; Milena M. Phillips as Grace Bradley, who has the role of Christmas Pageant director thrust upon her and is simultaneously distressed and pleased; and Madison Machado-Dancy as Beth Bradley and the play’s narrator. She did a marvelous job at both. Gifted Green played pre-teen Charlie Bradley and was also a good performer.

The rest of the large cast consists of the six Herdman children, congregation members, a minister, shepherds, angels and several choirs of adults as well as children. The choirs are obviously well-rehearsed and sing traditional carols.

One humorous scene occurs when several church “housewives” decked out in frilly aprons are spotlighted gossiping on the phone about the pageant.They all have something to gossip about, but in the end it is agreed they wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Young Gladys Herdman, portrayed by Regan Daniels, is delightful. Confusing the role of the Angel of the Lord with a comic character she admires, she runs onstage, lifts her hands in the air and yells, “Shazam! …It’s Jesus… Go see him!”

A touching moment occurs when Imogene Herdman (Colette Hamilton), who is ready for the pageant dressed as Mary, the Mother of Jesus, studies a painting of the nativity and then quietly removes her earrings.

Imogene had been told earlier by Grace Bradley that the earrings needed to come off because Mary would not have worn them. At that moment, Imogene balked and refused to remove them.

During the intermission the entire audience was required to leave the theater to discover a performance of sorts taking place in the lobby and outside. “Church” women were selling cookies, advent calendars and other goods while discussing the Herdman kids. Gossipy “housewives” in brazen makeup and clothing were milling about. It was a marvelous way to keep the mindset of make-believe going.

Also, during intermission, audience members could purchase jars full of hot chocolate mix decorated with the character of Mrs. Fanny (Patty Hornsveld). During Act II Mrs. Fanny tells a rambling story about her hot chocolate.

Selling the chocolate is another clever way to tie the play with the audience.

Upon entering the theater for Act II the audience members were given a “church bulletin” that tells about the fictitious church, choir and, of course, Christmas Pageant. This clever bulletin needs to be read – it is quite a piece in itself, complete with typos and a plea for help “typin up the bullitins.”

During the second act, performers portraying audience members are highlighted in several theater seats, while the pastor announced the upcoming pageant as if we were his congregation. It created a fascinating play within a play.

The choir members and other singers did a great job thanks to both the performers and the capable choir directors, Cheryl Zales (adult) and Sandra Kopitzke (children). The director is Jennifer Hornsveld and the producer is Patty Hornsveld.

Come out and see for yourself if this is “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” Oh, and don’t forget to buy some of Mrs. Fanny’s Hot Chocolate!

To comment on this story online, visit

“The Best Christmas

Pageant Ever”

CAST Productions

Mission Theatre

200 N. Main, Fallbrook

(760) 731-2278

Dec. 12, 13 at 8 p.m.

Dec. 14 at 2 p.m.


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