Those rotten Herdman kids are coming back to the Spokane Civic Theatre’s Main Stage and, once again, they are threatening to sabotage the church Christmas pageant and turn it into the worst one ever.
Yet, as almost everyone knows by now, they instead turn it into “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
The stage version of Barbara Robinson’s beloved story returns to the Civic for the first time since 1995.
It’s about a beleaguered church pageant director, Grace Bradley, who has to find a way to stage a Christmas show with the six Herdman kids, the roughest and toughest kids in town. The only reason they’re in church at all is because they think there will be snacks.
What begins as unmitigated comic disaster ends as a Christmas miracle.
This family-friendly play is half of a Christmas double bill at the Civic. For the first time, the theater is offering two plays in rotation, the raucous “A Tuna Christmas” for the grown-ups and “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” for kids and families.
“A Tuna Christmas” (which opened last week) fills Friday and Saturday nights and most Sunday matinees; “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” runs on Saturday afternoons, Thursday evenings and one Sunday matinee.
It would be hard to find a more popular family show. “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” evolved over the past four decades from a beloved magazine story, to a beloved book, to a beloved TV special, to a beloved play.
Robinson, a Pennsylvania writer, first wrote the story for McCall’s magazine. Reader demand was so high, the magazine ran the story twice.
Then Robinson turned it into a book in 1972, which became a classic. It was adapted for a TV special in 1983, starring Loretta Swit.
Yet it was this stage adaptation by Robinson, first produced at the Seattle Children’s Theatre, that made “Pageant” into a live-theater holiday staple.
The Seattle Children’s Theatre ran the show four holiday seasons in a row from 1982 to 1986. Since then, this short play has played in theaters all over the world. In Australia and the U.K., it’s titled “The Worst Kids in the World.”
Andrew Ware Lewis directs a Civic cast of 30-plus, including Julie Watts Striker as Grace and Patrick Striker as her husband.
The Herdman clan will be played by Patrick Crumb, Lily Evans, Ryan Brady, Colton Adams, Peyton Cooley and Kiersten Gasper.
The Civic’s set designers have created an ingenious set to accommodate both of the theater’s Christmas plays. On one side will be the “Tuna Christmas” set; flip it around and it becomes the church (and Bradley living room) in the “Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”