The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical at the Conservatory Theatre Company | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical at the Conservatory Theatre Company

If Christmas isn’t your thing, this show is like the gift of the Magi


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Point Park University’s Conservatory Theatre Company has, thoughtfully, given a Christmas gift to those who, if they’re anything like me, really can’t be bothered with Christmas. The company is producing the musical version of Barbara Robinson’s hugely popular 1971 novel The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. So if the young ’uns are whining about wanting to see a holiday-themed entertainment, but thoughts of nutcrackers and miraculously converted Victorian cynics leaves you thinking “bah humbug,” this Point Park show is like the gift of the Magi.

Whatever else it is, it’s barely an hour long; you don’t have to worry about intermissions or buying candy or herding children in and out of bathrooms. One hour — I can’t stress that enough.

And the fact that this sprightly production, directed with a fierce attention to pace by Philip Winters, features a typically abundantly talented Point Park University student cast makes even that hour fly by.

I will say I’m not sure why this show isn’t part of the Point Park children’s-theater season (the Playhouse Jr.), since it’s very clearly a piece of children’s theater: Every year, the Sunday school in a picture-postcard town presents your standard Nativity play. This year, however, a local family of misbehaving children (the Herdmans) gets cast in the roles, and the results are a unique, but ultimately endearing, retelling of the story of Mary and Joseph.

I give credit to Jahnna Beecham and Malcom Hillgartner, who adapted the book and wrote the music and lyrics, for realizing that they didn’t need more than an hour to put this nuance-free and utterly predictable tale across. The show zooms from beginning to end, and even though you know precisely how it’s all going to wind up, you can’t help but feel a little tear tugging at the corner of your eye. I do wish, however, that one of the writers would have bought a rhyming dictionary because the lyrics are, to be generous, lazy and sloppy.

There are 19 students in the show, and the production does a great job highlighting each actor’s contribution. I especially want to mention the entertaining performances of Nora Krupp, Hayley Isabella Warfel, Angela D’Occhio and Atiauna Grant.

And did I mention it was an hour long?


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