| Stage |

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever from AD Players: Rebellious Kids Put on a Show

The setup:

A substitute pageant director has (gasp!) to cast six unruly children to tell the story of The Manger.

The execution:

The Herdsman family is financially challenged, and its six children are boisterous and rebellious and a great deal of fun, even if they never have read the Bible. The aggressive Virgin Mary (Kristin Rice) smokes cigars in the ladies' room, and the delightful Herald Angel (Abigail Richardson) is convinced she is an Avenging Angel, swooping to destroy.

Trying to salvage rehearsal problems is Grace Bradley (Katharine Hatcher), aided by her husband Bill (Jason Hatcher) -- they are married in real life as well, and both are excellent in their roles, with Jason playing multiple. The young Anna Yost plays their daughter and serves as narrator; she is quite good.

This unusual slant on the birth of Christ freshens the retelling with a seemingly irreverent approach, while remaining true to the spirit of the event. The children onstage -- and hurtling down the aisles as well -- are having as much fun as the audience, and the presentation is simple enough for children, but with enough vitality and humor to keep an adult interested. The play is written by Barbara Robinson and directed with spirit by Ric Hodgin.

The verdict:

The traditional story is retold with gentle humor and lively children in a highly entertaining fashion.

The show runs through December 31 at A. D. Players at Grace Theatre, 2710 W. Alabama. For information, call 713-526-2721.

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