Along with Christmas the season brings the spectacle of theatre and drama productions to Lake Cowichan. Most prominent of these includes the Kaatza Lakeside Players and their rendition of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
The play, adapted from a 1972 novel by American author Barbara Robinson, is a one-act, one hour and fifteen minute performance told from the point of view of a family of misfit children, the Herdmans.
The play’s program describes the Herdmans as, “The most inventively awful kids in history.”
The Herdman children attend church for the first time because of free Sunday school food. This leads to the Herdmans being given parts in the church’s Christmas play much to the opposition of other church members. Getting the Herdmans to act out the play in the church’s vision proves a troublesome affair resulting in what emerges as a comedy of errors.
It is nearly Dena McPhee’s 30th year of directing the Lakeside Players’ Christmas production. She thinks her play will be a family hit.
“It’s going to appeal to all ages,” said the local director.
McPhee thinks the Lakeside Player’s Christmas productions grown significantly since she first directed A Christmas Carol in 1985.
“We’ve come a very long way from performing with paper sets in the basement of the hall to now being in the upper hall.“
Although the play incorporates elements of spirituality, McPhee calls The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, “Not a harpy religious play.”
McPhee also has written some of the music for the play and will provide live piano during the play’s performance. Music is a staple element of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
We’ve had lots of fun with this. The kids love it,” she added.
McPhee has been pleased working with her cast, parents and set crew this year.
“We have wonderful people who help backstage and in the production end of it and with costumes, makeup, hair, painting the stage and those who volunteer their time as theatre enthusiasts,” McPhee said.
McPhee especially credited Mike Patrick with exceling in his new role as technical director. Patrick absorbed the position after McPhee’s former technical director, her husband, passed away two years ago. Since stepping into the job, McPhee admitted that Patrick has been a toilsome elf.
“He [Patrick] kind of fell into that role. All I can say is, it’s a good thing he’s retired because he puts 10 hours a day into our production. He’s just fabulous. It’s all a very community-based theatre,” McPhee explained.
There are roughly 30 child actors — some of which are as young as seven-years-old — and five parents in McPhee’s cast.
Brandon Depol is one of these parents. His two daughters, Sophie, and Sage are among a handful of the play’s primarily child cast. Depol plays the part of Bob, a father figure in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
“He’s a laid back family man,” described Depol.
His part in McPhee’s play might not be big, but Depol enjoys watching his children take a stab at drama. For Depol, acting in McPhee’s play gave him a chance to spend some more time with his daughters.
That’s exactly why I’m doing this: there is an opportunity for them to grow as people. I think acting is such a great way to build confidence in the kids. They love it,” he said.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is the third play Depol has done with McPhee. He’s been acting locally for about two and a half years.
Depol’s youngest daughter, Sophie, seven, plays the role of Dorris. Sage, who is the age of nine, plays the character of Danielle. They are part of The Best Pageant Ever’s ‘good children’ and undertake quite a bit of singing in the play.
Sophie is quite pleased to be able to act with her father in such a fun production.
“I like singing and I like dressing up and putting on makeup. It’s definitely pretty cool because you get to act with both of them,” she said.
Tickets are available at the door for $10 or $7.50 for Lakeside Players’ members. Tickets can also be purchased in advance at Curves or the Footwear Centre.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever runs from Nov. 23 to 27. The curtain is set to go up at 7 p.m. on weekday performances, while Saturday and Sunday showings are matinees, beginning at 2 p.m. Doors open an hour in advance to the show commencing.