Losing and Learning Religion

Playbill
What: Pied Piper Playhouse's “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 10, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 11
Where: Church Street School auditorium
Tickets: $5/adults, $3/students
Info: (662) 842-9031 or 678-6455

BY M. SCOTT MORRIS

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Sometimes people must “lose their religion” before others may find theirs.

In Pied Piper Playhouse's “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” the six young members of the Herdman clan are experts at making people lose their tempers.

To the consternation of adults and others, the Herdmans smoke, fight and talk out of turn with maddening regularity.

They also don't know the story of Christmas and Baby Jesus.

“They go to church because they think there's free food,” said Diane Ludt, who's co-directing the play with her husband, Steve. “They wind up getting all the major roles in the pageant because they bully the other actors.”

Mrs. Armstrong usually directs the Christmas pageant, but a broken leg sidelines her for the season. She recruits someone else to do the job.

“At first, she thinks it's a good idea,” said Libby Ezell, 17, who portrays Mrs. Armstrong, “then she finds out the Herdmans are in it. She's not very happy.”

Mrs. Bradley doesn't want the director's job at first, but she's willing to make a go, especially when other ladies of the church predict the pageant will be a Herdman-induced disaster.

“After a while, she's like I'm going to show you,'” said 16-year-old Morgan Ricks, who plays Mrs. Bradley.

Still, those Herdmans are a test, and that's a lot of fun for Ashley Prince, 14, who brings Imogene Herdman to life.

“She's bossy and real loud,” Prince said. “I like her dialogue because she's got a lot of great one-liners.”

While Prince is enjoying the role, she wants everyone to know she doesn't identify with the cigar-smoking kid with the oversized ego.

“She's totally opposite of me – I hope,” Prince said.

Revelations

Don't think the Herdmans are totally without hope, especially at Christmas time. While other characters get angry and “lose their religion,” the Herdmans are soaking in the essential elements of Jesus' birth.

“Everything comes together,” Ludt said, “and it's clear the Herdmans get religion in the end. It's a funny, sweet story.”

Cast: Bryce Montgomery (Bob Bradley), Morgan Ricks (Grace Bradley), Maggie Kutak (Beth Bradley), Gregory Sonnier (Charlie Bradley), Haley Ford (Alice Wendleken), Catherine Phillips (Maxine Cooper), Stephen Rhea (The Rev. Hopkins), Casey Smith (Elmer Hopkins), Drew Bledsoe (Ralph Herdman), Ashley Prince (Imogene Herdman), Alex Clark (Leroy Herdman), Joshua Phillips (Claude Herdman), Michael Dunn (Ollie Herdman), Abby Grace (Gladys Herdman), Libby Ezell (Helen Armstrong), Lindsey Bailey (Irma Slocum), Amanda Ashley (Bernadette Slocum), Amanda Nordin (Mrs. Clark), Alyssa Miller (Bernice Clark), Patricia Pantaleo (Mrs. Clausing), Heather Wigginton (Edna McCarthy), Amber Langford (Agnes McCarthy), Katie Taylor (Mrs. McCluskey), Mary Byars (Mrs. Malone), Katie Scarlett (Mrs. Wendleken), Eric Soderstrom (Fireman Joe Potter), Nick Raines (Fireman Bob Cooper), Beau Black (Fireman Frank Weaver), Cassie Ausbon (Sarah), Chelsea Spencer (Gwenda), Madison Taylor (Louella), Molly Anne Byars (Millie), Abigail Condit (Beverly), Kathryn Wynn (Doris), Lauren Dye (Roberta), Katie Kinsey (Lucille), Nikki Doire (Jane), Mabel Beard (Margaret), Skylar Talley (Janet), Elizabeth Raines (Susan), Emily Davidson (Betsy), Caroline Garner (Eloise), Dorie Stewart (Alberta), Courtney Phillips (Wanda), Stephen Sonnier (David), Matthew Sonnier (Wesley), Kevin Teeter (Boomer), Austin Kinsey (Hobie), Lee Beard (Eugene), Phillip Sutton (Grady), Brianna Barrett (Bridgit), Kelley Nabors (Penelope), Tanner Collum (Ingrid), Summer Short (Anne), Bailey Martin (Christine), Mary Grace Beard (Juanita), Lauren Lundy (Shirley), Deanna Locke (LaVerne), Alicia Sutton (Marilyn)