The Best Pageant Ever: a week in review

The Kaatza Lakeside Players holiday production, The Best Pageant Ever

The Kaatza Lakeside Players holiday production, The Best Pageant Ever, enjoyed a successful week under the lights during its showings Nov. 23-27 at Centennial Hall.

The roughly 30-member cast skillfully sang, danced and pranced around stage, reminding Lake Cowichan of the thrill only live theatre can produce.

With the cast ranging in age from five-years old to 45-years old, the diversity of age made for an interesting on-stage chemistry that produced a myriad of laughs from the audience.

The Best Pageant Ever’s director, local theatre enthusiast, Dena McPhee commended the audience, as well as her cast and crew for exceling throughout the week and the play’s grueling performance schedule.

“The turnouts have been great and really supportive. The kids love it and guarantee an audience. There were so many family members there,” said McPhee.

McPhee was pleased to wrap the hectic week of performances up but was sad it came to end so quickly. She said working with children is a passion of hers but sometimes it can be difficult to maintain control over such a largely child cast.

“Working with children is sometimes exhausting but I work them hard,” she joked. “Theatre is a very disciplined art form. I love to teach. The biggest challenge for me was to keep their energy up.”

The production’s main character, Grace Bradley is a finicky mother played by Duncan actress, Jessica Kato-Koch. The California native and former child model, Kato-Koch shines in The Best Pageant Ever — in singing and acting. Kato-Koch has been in Canada since 2003 and her two daughters, Sarah and Joelle also performed in The Best Pageant Ever.

She described her characters as an “average vanilla suburban mom and a kind of stay at home character.”

“She likes routines and she doesn’t like curveballs thrown at her against her will,” Kato-Koch added.

Kato-Koch’s character, Grace is placed in charge of directing her church’s own Christmas pageant after a key church member and the pageant’s usual director winds up in a wheelchair. Grace is a nervous wreck throughout the play and numerous hiccups ensue in her quest to successfully become a director.

Grace’s theatre woes are mainly complicated by an outcast family of brothers and sisters, the Herdmans’, who forcefully join the ranks of the pageant and decide they want to play important biblical roles.

Kato-Koch, too, has been pleased with Lake Cowichan’s reaction to the production.

“It was quite surprising to me to how people reacted. I’m especially shocked how people are reacting to that musical piece.”

The Herdmans’ devious nature and meager understanding of Christianity, allows for the play to be injected with a decent dose of irony. However, the play’s spiritual tones weren’t forced, allowing for a wide audience to enjoy the production.

It was Kato-Koch’s second play with McPhee and the 28-year-old was adamant never gets old — it’s what drives her existence.

“I kind of see it as outlet. Everyday life can be quite stressful. You kind of get to pretend you’re somebody else and get to step into this alternate life. It actually helps me to be a new rounded,” Kato-Koch added.