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Lancaster Regional Players' 'Best Christmas Pageant Ever' great family fun

BY: Jennifer Lysiak, Lancaster Editor | November 15, 2012

LANCASTER- Since Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with family what better way to come together this holiday then to attend the Lancaster Regional Player’s production of ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” at the Lancaster Opera House.

Called one of America's favorite Christmas stories, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” has been a favorite among young readers since 1972. Funny, memorable, and outrageous, it is a story about a family of incorrigible children who discover the Christmas Story for the first time and help everyone else rediscover its true meaning.

The Herdmans, who are the worst kids in the history of the world lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and hit little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas Story before. Their interpretation of the tale: the Wise Men are a bunch of dirty spies and Herod needs a good beating, has a lot of people up in arms. But it will make this year's pageant the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.

First time directing for The Lancaster Regional Players, David Nuijens, said the story is about a sense of renewal.

“We look at Christmas as new beginnings and certainly that’s what the Christmas Story was all about. The Herman’s, the nasty kids in the town, all of sudden are getting the idea,” said Nuijens, who has been acting and directing for many years.

Directing this show, Nuijens works with a cast consisting of kids of all ages and from all over Western New York, including Lancaster, Alden, Amherst, Clarence, and Williamsville.

“The energy is a little scattered now, but they’re doing well,” remarked Nuijens. “I’m lucky we have some very good kids. I enjoy working with them.”

Nuijens said the show is a group effort and his directing style is not to dictate how the actors should do things.

“I take suggestions from the kids, the adults, and the parents and we try to put something together that we think is going to be enjoyable,” said Nuijens. “Christmas shows you always know you’re going to have a big audience. I think they will enjoy seeing the kids on stage.”

Starring in her first lead, Christina Morrow of Lancaster will be performing as Beth Bradley, the narrator, who is telling the story.

“I’m nervous because it is my first lead and I haven’t had this many lines before, but I also find it extremely exciting,” said Morrow.

Morrow, a junior, attends Lancaster High School and has been performing in opera house plays since 2008 when she had her first role in The Miracle on 34th Street. Since then, she has taken on roles in Annie and The Miracle Worker.

“I really like being able to portray different characters,” said Morrow. “I like being on stage and I like to bring enjoyment to people.”

Morrow plans to go to college in Los Angeles and get a bachelor’s in fine arts. In 10 years, she hopes to be successfully supporting herself in acting, possibly working in television.

“I believe someone should come and see this show, because we offer a new perspective on the Christmas Story and we’re young, which means we bring a new persona to the stage,” remarked Morrow. “It’s loud. It’s fun. It’s enjoyable and it’s funny.”

An interesting element to the show is the two individuals who play Mrs. Clark and Shirley, who is part of the Baby Angel Choir. Mother and daughter in the show and in real life mom, Deann, and daughter, Catherine Powell of Clarence, will be performing together for the first time.

However, Catherine who is nine years old has been acting for four years. Deann is new to theater.

“I like the feeling of being on stage and going to rehearsals and just being there and acting,” Catherine said.

Deann explained that Catherine has performed in three opera house summer theater camps and has worked with the Amherst Players. And after that experience, Catherine asked if she would audition with her in the next show.

“And I said I would think about it and this came up and this was actually one of my favorite books when I was a kid so I did,” said Deann. “It is an awesome story.”

Deann added the cast is amazingly talented and working with Nuijens is wonderful too.

“It’s been amazing. I wish I would have done this years ago,” Deann remarked. “As a long as my daughter wants me there, I will audition. I can’t promise I’ll ever get another part, but I will audition.”

Catherine said she enjoys having her mom with her in the show.

“She can help me and I can coach her and, like, she can keep track of my water bottle,” laughed Catherine. “It’s fun to do it with her. People should come see the show, because it is really funny and the cast is really, really good.”

The cast also includes Alex Bogart, Annabella Bogart, Aaron Boos, Mary Louise Dahlke, Cassandra Lynn Dwyer, Allsion Gray, Mitchel Guidie, Cameron Heffler, Stacy Kowal, Michael Maciejewski, Christina Metauro, Adam Misnik, Alex Schilling, Jake Shapiro, Penny Striker, and Kelsey Szefler. Members of the Angel Choir are Maeve Devine, Maddalena Orbach, Annabel Paradise, Sarah Pasternak, Jadyn Potoczniak, and Julia Smith.

Performances will be beginning Friday, Nov. 30 and run through Sunday, Dec. 16 with shows at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, and $13 for children 12 and under. The Lancaster Opera House Box Office is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and one hour before curtain on show nights. The Lancaster Opera House is located on the second floor of the Lancaster Town Hall, 21 Central Ave., Lancaster. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 683-1776 or on the Web at www.LancOpera.org.

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