"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"
After being absent from their schedule last year, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" returns to The Pumphouse Players' lineup. Directed by Barbara Rudy, the comedy will open Dec. 2 at The Legion Theatre, 114 W. Main St. in Cartersville.
Penned by Barbara Robinson, the story initially was published in McCall's magazine and later adapted into a book and a play. Narrated by the young character of Beth Bradley, the comedy centers on the troublesome Herdman siblings, who bully their way into receiving the lead parts of the play's Christmas pageant. While they are initially drawn to the pageant for its free refreshments, the Herdmans eventually turn the nativity play into one of the town's most memorable productions, while discovering the story of Jesus' birth.
"Ever since the article was published decades ago, it has a ring of truth to it that everybody can identify with," said Mike Harris, vice president and marketing manager for The Pumphouse Players. "Anyone who has tried to put on a show, especially one as a school or a church or something like that, can really feel what it's like to be a part of a show that seems like it's headed straight downhill but at the last minute something pulls it all together and some kind of theatrical miracle occurs and it becomes a really fantastic show. So that's what 'The Best Christmas Pageant' is all about -- a show that nobody thought would be performed successfully turns out as the title says to be the best Christmas pageant ever."
With a cast of 30, many of whom are children, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" will be presented on Dec. 2, 3, 9 and 10 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. Some of the lead actors include Kandy Arnold as Grace Bradley, Gina DeLise as Beth Bradley, Thomas Riley as Bob Bradley, Thomas Peters as Charlie Bradley, Jake Vaccaro as Ralph Herdman, Emily Jernigan as Imogene Herdman, Sabra Woodruff as Claudia Herdman, Ethan Woodruff as Leroy Herdman, Tyler Ledbetter as Ollie Herdman, Julia Rudy as Gladys Herdman and Charli-Anne Shane as Alice Wendleken.
"Christmas is all about traditions and this is a traditional show for The Pumphouse Players to do this time each year," Harris said. "It is a good introduction for new actors who want to get their feet wet on stage and it's a good outlet for the grade school-age kids and middle school-age kids who want to perform with The Pumphouse Players. It's a large cast so oftentimes we can cast everybody who auditions.
"That's a big plus for people, especially kids who want to join us. ... The lead and supporting characters are primarily children. I don't think there's but four maybe five adults that are cast. All the rest of them are kids, ranging from some younger, grade-school kids up to middle school-age kids. But it is a show for the entire family. It's not a show by kids for kids, although it's certainly a favorite of young audiences, but anyone of any age would enjoy this show."
Tickets for "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" are $12 for general admission and $10 for Pumphouse Players members and pre-paid groups of 10 or greater. For more information or to reserve tickets, call 770-387-2610 or visit www.pumphouseplayers.com.
The story of Clara's magical adventures will be retold as the Cartersville City Ballet -- under the direction of Terri Kayser and Karen Grantham -- presents the classic Christmas ballet, "The Nutcracker." Performed locally since the late 1980s, the ballet will be presented at The Grand Theatre -- 7 N. Wall St. in Cartersville -- Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 3 at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
"'The Nutcracker' is a really popular ballet," said Kayser, artistic director for the Cartersville City Ballet. "When you think about how many ballet companies across America do 'The Nutcracker' during the holiday season, I think it's the most done ballet that exists. And it does have a nice message. It's a holiday story.
"You've got your main character, Clara, and she receives a nice gift from her interesting uncle," she said, adding in the ballet a girl named Clara receives a nutcracker that comes to life and embarks on various adventures with her. "In the end, I think it's a story that makes people feel good. ... Once they've seen it once, oftentimes we'll get folks that will come back every year and see the production. It's like a little kickoff for the holiday season for them. And I think a lot of people use that concept. It's just a part of their [holiday] tradition."
More than 80 dancers will perform in the ballet. Some of the lead roles will be Clara -- Ashley Edwards and Cathryn Farmer; Nutcracker Prince -- Tyler Bucher and Weston Melton; Sugar Plum Fairy -- Rosie White and Sara Whitener; Dew Drop Fairy -- Cara Collier and Margot Harris; and Herr Drosselmeyer -- Allen Weirick.
For Kayser, watching the ballet unfold on opening night always is an exhilarating experience.
"It's definitely a moment that you breathe a sigh of relief because it's such a buildup," she said, adding the company starts preparing for "The Nutcracker" in August. "You work so hard and the dancers work so hard. The choreographers, the dancers, everyone is working so hard. You have many people working on costuming.
"Everybody is working so hard but it's really quite the pleasure to see it on stage finally. I've seen it a million times and there are still portions of the ballet that will bring a tear to my eye. Tchaikovsky's music is beautiful. There's just no doubt that this ballet has beautiful music in it and it just makes you feel good."
To obtain tickets for "The Nutcracker," individuals need to call 770-386-7343. Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for students 18 and younger.