With the younger actors on stage outnumbering the adults nearly three to one, the Jessie nominated Naked Goddess Productions has decided this holiday season to work with kids. A lot of kids.
Adapted from her best-selling young-adult book, Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is the lively Christmas classic which tells the story of a couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant. Faced with casting the Herdman kids – probably the most inventively awful kids in history – mayhem ensues in this hilarious and heartwarming story.
In this Q&A we talk with adult actor Melissa Oei (Grace Bradley), and two of the younger players, Amelie Love (Imogene Herdman) and Madeline Angel (Alice Wendelken), to find out more.
This interview has been edited.
What is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever about?
Melissa Oei: The script is a simple, funny, heartwarming story about an annual Christmas pageant that goes awry when the local misfit children decide to participate but the show turns out to be as the title suggests.
What is it like working with so many child actors?
Melissa Oei: Loud. But seriously, what is wonderful about working with kids is the unencumbered and unabashed performances that they give. It reminds me to loosen up and have fun. After all they call it a play for a reason.
What are the challenges and benefits for a co-op show such as this?
Melissa Oei: Being an independent artist is the most tiring thing I have ever done. Doing a part-time rehearsal schedule means I am still working several part-time jobs while rehearsing, and often running from one job to another and then to rehearsal all in the same day. It’s tough to keep it all organized, and by the end of the day I am exhausted.
What is your favourite part of the show?
Melissa Oei: Watching the kids perform the pageant. I feel exactly the way I imagine the pretend audience, and the way I hope the real audience, feels. It’s quite precious.
What is it like working with so many young people on this show?
Amelie Love: There’s never a dull moment. We all understand each other so it’s funner than working on a play with all adults.
Madeline Angel: It’s chaos. It’s kind of crazy but it’s fun and a different experience because I haven’t worked with this many young kids.
Have you done stage plays before? What is your acting experience?
Amelie Love: I played the role of Gloria in the Naked Goddess Productions production of Wait Until Dark. I also take Musical Theatre at Lindbjerg Academy and have performed as the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz, The Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, Drake the Butler in Annie, Drake the dad in Honk! I have been in several indie films. I am most proud of Drywall, where I played the role of Teddy, a boy who was abused by his father.
Madeline Angel: I shared the role of Gloria in Wait Until Dark. I have been in Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Annie and Honk! at my musical theatre school, Lindbjerg Academy and we are now preparing for Singing in the Rain. I have also been featured in a TV commercial, a music video, the indie feature film Exuvia and an anti-bullying project.
What is it like working with the adults in this cast? Who makes you laugh?
Amelie Love: Eric Regimbald is young at heart and isn’t afraid to let loose and be crazy. We had lots of fun when we worked on Wait Until Dark together. All the adults are really professional and nice, but the producer is kind of a problem. I mean, she acts like she’s my mom.
Madeline Angel: I am learning how to be a better actor by observing the adults in the cast. Maria J. Cruz makes me laugh because the way she says her lines is very funny.
What is your favourite part of the show?
Amelie Love: I love when I really feel like Imogene and am embodying the character. I like the fight scenes and the artistic bits. There is this one pussy willow scene that is really fun. I also really like the set – it’s really fun and kid friendly. Most plays don’t have a playground as a set piece. I don’t only like the parts when I speak. I enjoy standing by and watching the other actors and seeing them make different choices with their characters. One of my other favourite parts is when we have our break and we can all talk like regular friends instead of just actors. I can already tell I will be sad when it’s over.
Madeline Angel: My favourite part of my character is when she is being very bossy and snobby. I love doing the full run-throughs and finding different ways to say my lines. In the beginning, everyone was kind of embarrassed being watched but now everyone is feeling comfortable, expressing ideas and letting loose and I like that a lot. I also like that I am making friends and that everyone tries to help each other do their best.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever plays the Havana Theatre (1212 Commercial Dr, Vancouver) December 6-16. Visit nakedgoddessproductions.com for tickets and information.