‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’

MOVP junior players and youth theatre production this weekend

The best is seldom ordinary, and “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” takes that principle to stage in a play about a nativity pageant.

The junior players and youth theatre production by the Mid-Ohio Valley Players is being staged for three performances this weekend. The cast of more than 20 young actors tackle a portrayal of what happens when the most feared children of the neighborhood overwhelm the church Christmas pageant.

The six Herdman children — bullies, miscreants, unconventional and intimidating — show up for free food at the church and decide to make the Christmas story their next target.

Meadow McCarthy, who plays Imogene Herdman, the eldest of the six, said she’s been involved in theater for five years. “When auditions rolled around, I went after it,” she said.

“She’s the oldest of the six kids and kind of in charge, and that makes her sort of the responsible one, that’s my interpretation of the role,” McCarthy, a 16-year-old who attends Marietta High School, said. “I think the other kids have a level of respect for her that they don’t have for adults or other authority figures … but she still participates in the rascalliness.”

J.R. Wells, 49 and a teacher, is one of three directors working on the play. In addition to comic and outrageous moments, he said, the play has some deeper themes.

“The play is about people trying to look beyond the way things appear,” he said. “Here’s a group of kids who are the worst in town, they’re despised, people don’t want them around, but they audition at church to be part of the Christmas pageant, the Nativity scene, they push their way into the biggest parts.

“And they learn a lesson themselves. Part of it is about religion, but more of it is about empathy for others. It changes them. They give things away, the experience changes who they are.”

Wells said he’s been involved in drama since high school and welcomed the opportunity more than a decade ago to get involved in the Mid-Ohio Valley Players, particularly in a role that lets him help young people.

“I’ve been a teacher for 23 years, so my job outside the theater is also working with kids, and I enjoy doing it,” he said.

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” will be a crowd-pleaser on several levels, he said.

“This is a family-oriented show. It’s going to make you laugh and tug at your heartstrings, and you’re going to walk away feeling like you’ve seen something meaningful,” he said.

The play, which is based on an award-winning story by Barbara Robinson, runs Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and on Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets, which are $6 for youth under 17 and $8 for adults, can be purchased online at midohiovalleyplayers.org or at the box office, which opens two hours before each performance. The Players Theatre is at 229 Putnam St.

At a glance

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Show times:

¯ 7 p.m Friday

¯ 7 p.m. Saturday

¯ 3 p.m.. Sunday

¯ All shows at the Player’s Theatre, 229 Putnam St., box office opens at 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday

¯ Tickets prices are $6 for youth under 17 and $8 for adults, sold at the box office or online at midohiovalleyplayers.org

¯ For information: 740-374-9434 or midohiovalleyplayers.org