Paducah Public Schools Students and Faculty Featured in "Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical" at MHT
Let’s admit it—the Herdmans are the worst kids in the town. They lie, they cheat, they bully little kids, and smoke smelly cigars. There is only one place in town where you will never see the Herdmans—church. So the whole town panics when the Herdmans show up in Sunday school (because they’ve heard there are snacks!) and demand parts in the Christmas pageant, It turns out they really don’t know the Christmas story — they don’t know there’s not supposed to be biting or wrestling in Bethlehem — and they add their own special rewrites to make it, well, interesting!
Grace Bradley (Rachael Jaenichen, The Odd Couple) is the mom who has to reluctantly take on the annual pageant, and she is torn between calming the terrified pint-sized “good” church kids playing shepherds to the furious church ladies who are calling for her to cancel the whole thing.
Grace has two choices—get rid of the rag-tag bunch of kids, who definitely need a little loving kindness in their lives, or let them stay in the pageant and risk being blamed for the worst pageant in the history of the town. With the help of her son Charlie (Jacob Julian, making his MHT debut) and Reverend Hopkins (C. Dale Julian, in his MHT debut) they help their community see the Christmas story and the Herdman kids through new eyes in this joyous musical adaptation of the funny and touching holiday classic. Silent night? Not a chance. But sometimes a little joyful noise is just right for Christmas.
Based on the best-selling book by Barbara Robinson, the musical is set in southern Ohio in 1963. The songs reflect the music of 60’s pop, with a touch of Appalachia thrown in.
Playing the Herdmans are Travis Trimble (How I Became a Pirate) as Ralph, Claire Kelly (Mary Poppins) as Imogene, Anakin Womble, in his MHT debut as Leroy, Alex Mescher, (Miss Nelson Is Missing) as Claude, Liam Black, (Miss Nelson is Missing) as Ollie and MHT newcomer Weslyn Durfee as Gladys.
Playing Grace’s forbearing husband Bob Bradley is Tim Franklin (Mary Poppins), and Abby Brown (Junie B. Jones, Jingle Bells, Batman Smells) plays Charlie’s sister, Beth.
The church ladies are Melanie Russell (All Shook Up), playing the formidable Helen Armstrong, Joanne Wendleken (played by Jean Kitchen, Hairspray), Betty Brown (Millie Wyant, in her MHT Debut) and Connie St. Clair (Natalie Shadrick, A Charlie Brown Christmas)
Playing the members of the church are Heather Pierce (in her first performance at MHT), Hadley Pierce (The Grapes of Wrath), and Alexia Hines (The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales), Aaron Spoden (All Shook Up), and Bryan Pont (Henry and Ramona).
Some of the outspoken children from the church are Alice Wendleken (Addie Beth Franklin, Mary Poppins), Elmer Hopkins (Sam Kitchen, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever), Teddy Shoemaker (HG Page, MHT debut), and Ivy Reed (Maya Romanak, Miss Nelson Is Missing)
Returning to the MHT stage as the kids of the church and chorus are: Fiona Caywood (Junie B. Jones, Jingle Bells, Batman Smells), Stevie Collins (Gooney Bird Greene and Her True Life Adventures), Gabrielle Copeland (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), Owen Hibbs (Miss Nelson Is Missing), Kathryn Johnston (A Charlie Brown Christmas), Jensen Knudsen (Junie B. Jones, Jingle Bells, Batman Smells), Mackenzie Shrum (Miss Nelson Is Missing), Laurel Swanz (Les Misérables), Making their Family Series stage debut are Sasha Black, Claire Brown, Carson Chestnut, Jillian Collins, Sarah Kate Houser, Leyton Morris, Clara Pierce, and Gabriel Whitley.
April Cochran directs, Cindy Miller is music director and Alexia Hines is assistant director.