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Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022

Review: OSP’s holiday play ‘memorable’

BARB THOMPSON/for the Van Wert independent

With Thanksgiving now behind us, we’re heading into serious stress-encumbered weeks when available hours are far outweighed by holiday tasks that must be completed satisfactorily and on time.

I stumbled onto a remedy earlier this week that I urge all of you to consider: Off Stage Productions’ performances of its holiday story, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. It’s now showing this weekend at the Marsh Foundation Auditorium, located east of Van Wert on Lincoln Highway.

I was shoulder-deep in Christmas card signings when the call came asking me to consider viewing that evening’s rehearsal of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever as a forerunner to its opening show at 7:30 p.m. Friday, November 30. That’s tonight!

I thought, “Why not? These cards can wait; it’s still early,” and I grabbed my clipboard and headed out to the Marsh Foundation campus for an experience that I’ll forever treasure. Three performances will be offered: tonight and tomorrow night, starting at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday afternoon at 2. Once again, we’re reminded that our youths are super special.

This is an opportunity that rarely happens, sharing such a memorable occasion with family, neighbors, friends, whomever, for a $7 adult ticket cost and/or $3 ticket cost for children 12 years and under. There are always those on your gift list who have you baffled, and I can guarantee you they’ll enjoy and remember this theatre gift forever. Tickets can be purchased at the door.

Allow me to tell you a little bit about the story involved and, by the way, this play has been performed for many years and our local director, Dan Bulau, has directed it twice before himself — and hopes to extend it to annual event status. His own children performed in it in the late 1980s.

In this hilarious Christmas tale, a couple struggling to put on a church pageant is faced with casting the Herdman kids — probably the most inventively awful kids in history. You won’t believe the level of mayhem (and fun) when the Herdmans collide with the Christmas story head-on.

There are six children in the Herdman family — three boys and three girls — and they travel a path of trouble no matter what they do. They decide to get involved in the local church when they learn that great treats (cookies, candy, etc.) are handed out each week during Sunday School.

All six Herdmans show up at the meeting when play roles are handed out and they brazenly volunteer for some of the top characters, including Mary, Mother of the Christ Child, and her husband, Joseph.

By the way, 36 youngsters from Van Wert, Lincolnview and Crestview schools, as well as those home-schooled, are all included in the play, with the youngest 4 years old up into the teenage years. They were chosen following auditions and it’s pure joy (Christmas joy, that is) watching them perform.

Ten adults appear on stage, with many more assisting behind the curtain — a crew of approximately 30 others. Three local pastors also appear briefly as Rev. Hopkins (one for each performance) and include the Revs. Philip Zielinski, Anthony Perry Jr. and Scott Campbell. They play is approximately an hour in length, with no intermission.

Jodi Hattery serves as stage manager and you can imagine the bedlam considering that 36 youngsters are on stage at one time. When the magic words “Hocus Pocus” are yelled during rehearsals, Director Bulau answers with “we need to focus” and everything quiets down (mothers, that might work well at home; consider it a Christmas gift).

The play carries a strong message about stereotypes, concerning people and how they can change, under proper circumstances. We’ve all been familiar with Herdman-type kids in our neighborhoods, or our children’s schoolrooms, and I identified immediately with a couple of them.

However, the performance finishes on a lovely level, and I wanted it to continue because I was developing a strong kinship with several youngsters on stage. Currently, we’re constantly reminded of the “bullying” epidemic, and you’ll agree the Herdman family may well have written the book.

The Marsh Auditorium can seat 570 or so visitors and I hope you’ll help me fill it three times this weekend. The $7 tickets will make wonderful holiday gifts and it’s a show that aims at all age levels. The young actors have picked up amazingly on “theatre jargon” so maybe that, too, will be duplicated by young ones in the audience.

At any rate, I urge you and your family or friends to set aside a couple of hours to lean back, relax and appreciate the major efforts of Off Stage Productions. You may very well agree that you’ve just witnessed “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” (oh, and applaud long and loudly at the end; the kids love it).

POSTED: 11/30/12 at 6:46 am. FILED UNDER: News