Beloved story: ‘Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ is about acceptance

By Hollyann Gardner
Times-News correspondent

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From left to right: Savannah Blackburn, Sarah Amash and Rachel Green star as angels in the Alamance Children's Theatre's production of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." [Nick Chester / Special to the Times-News

A well-loved Burlington theater tradition is     back — Alamance Children’s Theatre is   presenting “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
Showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday; 7 p.m.   Friday  and Saturday; and 2 p.m. Saturday and   Sunday at the Paramount Theater, 128 E.   Front   St., Burlington.
This year is special because the show is being   directed by two high school seniors, Kara   Gilmore and Emily Sledge. Both have acted   previously in various local productions.
“I’ve worked with many directors in my   community and I feel like I’ve learned a lot   from  all of them,” Sledge said. “Each of them   has a different take on directing, and I have   been able to develop my own style as well.”
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is the   story of what happens when mother Grace   Bradley (Madison Kimrey) is stuck leading a   church Christmas pageant involving the mischievous Herdman kids, Ralph (Timothy Duggins), Imogene (Kendal Fischer), Leroy (Alex Bravo), Claude (Connor McGee), Ollie (Phillip Webb) and Gladys (Ella Garrison). The Herdmans try to take over and put their own spin on the story.
“I’ve been in ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ three times now, and I remember my first time in the show as Alice and how much I looked up to the girl playing Mother,” Kimrey said. “Ever since then, Mother has been such a dream role for me, and it holds so much sentimental value. I’m having an absolute blast being able to put my own twist on the role, and I feel so lucky that I’m able to do that with such an incredible cast.”
Kendal Fischer said that “it’s interesting to play Imogene because she is the opposite of the real me.”
The play is based on the book of the same title by Barbara Robinson.
“I read this book in the fourth grade, and I have always liked the story,” said Sydney Fischer, who plays the narrator Beth Bradley. “However being in this show has changed the way I look at it, and I am so glad that it did. Being in ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ changes the way that Beth and everyone else sees the Christmas story and being in this show changed the way that I look at this equally unique story.”
Even though this is not the first time Alamance Children’s Theatre has put on this production, it is still a different show from past years.
“This ‘Best Christmas Pageant’ is different from past productions because of Kara and I’s new take on the show,” Sledge said. “We have acted in the show previously, Kara once and me three times, so we have a good idea of the script and characters. Already being so familiar with the script gave us room to experiment with new ideas and add new elements to the show.”
“This production will make you think about Christmas from a new perspective, even if you’ve seen the play before. I️ don’t want to give away too much, but we’ve put our own spin on things, and maybe added some emotional moments,” Gilmore added.
Gilmore played the role of Imogene Herdman last time the Best Christmas Pageant Ever was presented in 2014.
“After playing Imogene Herdman in this show, I feel prepared to help all of the Herdmans with their characterization because I’ve been through the same process already,” she said.
The cast of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” features some of Alamance County’s youngest rising stars, some only 8 or 9 years old.
“My favorite part of being in ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ this year has been watching all the younger kids develop their characters and learn and grow as actors,” Kimrey said. “I adore being able to play a role I love myself, but watching the kids develop their talent brings me so much joy.”
This show may be a comedy, but it shows a deeper meaning behind all the madness.
“I truly love the message of this show, and feel that it is so important to recognize in this day and age the importance of accepting and reaching out to one another,” Gilmore said.
Sydney Fischer summed up why this is a great Christmas production.
“This is not a story that you want to miss out on. This story has a fantastic comedic side that can get anyone laughing, as well as a thoughtful side that can get you thinking. Though these two sides may seem like they don’t belong together, this show brings them together in a beautiful way.”
   Tickets are $8 for adults and $7  for students and seniors and can be purchased between noon and 3 p.m. today through Saturday and one hour prior to showtime. Credit card reservations can be made by calling 336-222-TIXS. For more information on Alamance Children’s Theatre, visit www.alamancechildrenstheatre.com/.

Hollyann Gardner is a home-schooled high school sophomore and a Teens & 20s writer.

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