The Academy Street Theatre Group, an Arts Education Program of the Cherokee County School District, is presenting its annual classic holiday play “The Best Little Christmas Pageant Ever” for the 21st season.
Performances are Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Sequoyah High School Theatre in Canton. General admission is $5. The cast will also offer three performances for students in the school district during the day.
Janice Lewis, who is now in charge of the program and the production, said the play continues to appeal to audiences because of its message.
“It has such a good spirit, everybody comes together to help this little child. The effect that this wonderful story has on the children and how it affects everyone is wonderful,” Lewis said. “Over the years, it just appeals to the warmth that the season represents.”
The beloved classic by Barbara Robinson is about six unruly children who teach a whole church about the true meaning of the birth of Christ.
The play is the story of the Herdmans, the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, cheat and love to give clonks on the head. Even worse, this year they are performing in the annual Christmas pageant.
Everyone is convinced that it will be a disaster. At best, it will be unusual. But no one is prepared for it being the best one ever.
This year’s cast features 50 students and another five or more are part of the crew, Lewis said.
Emma O’Bryant, a senior at River Ridge High, is directing this year’s production under the guidance of Lewis for her senior project.
“Emma has worked with me for the six years I have done the production and this year she is directing. She is changing some of the blocking and staging,” Lewis said. “All students handle all the jobs.”
The program was started in 1992 by then School Superintendent Marguerite Cline, who appointed Steve Jones to head up the project. Jones, who managed the program full time, started the first year with the Christmas play that has now become a tradition.
Auditions for this year’s production were held in October. About 100 students auditioned, and 50 were cast for the show, Lewis said.
The group rehearses at ACE Academy and then moves to Sequoyah High for the performance. Children grades two through 12 come from all over the county, with 23 different schools represented this year, Lewis said.
“Production-wise it is a fun time for those in the production to be on stage, even the young ones. We can educate and train a lot of students in this one show,” Lewis said.
Lewis said that the nightmare scene is different each year, and this year promises some fun surprises.
The ASTG now performs twice each year and this year a musical, “Once Upon a Mattress,” will be offered in June with auditions in May.
This is Lewis’ last year with the company, and Reed Christian, a teacher at River Ridge, is poised to take over the next school years.
“She is very knowledgeable about the program and theater,” Lewis said.
Since 1992, the ASTG has mounted 41 productions including “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “The Little Prince,” “Tom Sawyer,” “The Sound of Music,” and 20 productions of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”