Abigail Tetreault, right, and Candence Preston share a scene in ACT's "Best Christmas Pageant Ever." (submitted)

ATTLEBORO - Attleboro Community Theater is once again staging a fun, family-friendly holiday play this season with its production of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." Directed by ACT President Jeanne Smith, the production also serves as a reminder of the importance of "community" in community theater with parents and children working together to bring audiences this heartwarming and humorous show.

Written by Barbara Robinson, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" might just conjure memories of your own experience with the holiday chestnut, complete with wrangling children.

In this show, the usual director, Mrs. Armstrong (played by Jo-Ann Vaughn) takes ill and the task of pulling the pageant together falls to Grace Bradley (Megan Ruggiero) and her husband, Bob Bradley (Brandon Harrington).

Grace has her hands full when the Herdmans, the worst-behaved children in town, show up at church and bully their way into roles. However, Grace is determined to make this the best Christmas pageant ever, regardless.

Through it all there are laughs and surprises as we learn more about the Herdmans: Imogene (Abigail Tetreault), who has a penchant for smoking cigars in the church bathroom; Leroy (Ryan Dilisio); Claude (Michael Coburn); Ralph (Shawn Oravec); Ollie (Garion Havens) and the very precocious Gladys (Candence Preston), who has her own ideas about the "Angel of the Lord." She steals the show with her very boisterous proclamation of, "Unto us a child is born - shazam."

All the kids look like they could be siblings and act like hooligans, until the spirit of Christmas transforms them.

As Imogene, Tetreault delivers a very poignant moment as she prepares the baby Jesus for the pageant, silently removing her clunky earrings and wrapping the doll.

It is very touching, particularly with the stained glass painting by Smith's daughter, Jessa Leavitt, illuminated with one bright star in the backdrop.

Before the transformation takes place, however, it takes patience, a calm demeanor and determination from Grace to keep the show together, and Ruggiero brings these qualities to the forefront in her performance.

She is aided by Jasia Mackey as her daughter, Beth, who nicely narrates and explains all for the audience leading up to the pageant.

It would be remiss not to mention Morgan Gariepy as Alice, the one child who observes and notes everything. Gariepy is perfectly snooty about the Herdmans, before having a change of heart in the end.

All the children in the choir do a lovely job with the carols under the direction of Barbara Lee, and the "baby angels" are quite adorable.

And Smith has done a great job casting and directing the Herdmans. They bring the show to life and really do make this "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," better than others I recall in my own church.

This show is a delight and will put you in the Christmas and community spirit.

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" continues the next two weekends at Bates Masonic Lodge, 71 North Main St., downtown Attleboro. Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. For tickets and more information, visit attleborocommunitytheatre.com or call 508-226-8100.

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