Three wise men enter, carrying gifts for the Christ child. The importance of this moment cannot be overstated — this baby is the son of God. Then they hand over their presents: a cigar box and a welfare ham brought from home.
If you want a traditional nativity scene, you hire actors, but if you want the best Christmas pageant ever, you bring in hoodlums.
At least that’s how it works for the characters in the CAST production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” The old favorite is back by popular demand after CAST’s 2006 performance, says Kim Dobbs, the producing artistic director.
“It’s a favorite holiday story for children,” said Dobbs, who is also directing the play. “I thought it was time to bring it back.”
The play follows the story of the Herdman siblings — six kids who fight, lie, steal and smoke cigars. Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie and Gladys decide to crash a local church after overhearing there are snacks at Sunday school.
On the Sunday they arrive, auditions for the year’s Christmas pageant are announced. The church kids are all tired of being in the play every year, but the Herdman kids, upon hearing there’s even more dessert for performers, force their way into the lead roles.
“I call them the ‘Herdman Hooligans,’” said Dobbs. “They’re not what normally shows up to the Christmas pageant.”
The Herdman kids start learning the story of the Nativity during rehearsals. They have a few issues with the tale at first — at one point rewriting the script so they can run down King Herod for being evil — but as the pageant draws near, changes can be seen in the once wild children.
“It’s about the transition of evil to good,” said Dobbs, particularly the character of Imogene, who plays the Virgin Mary. “We see her transition from a hoodlum teen to being more like Mary.”
Dobbs said she hopes the arc the Herdmans make will inspire audience members as well, and that they might leave with a better understanding of the Christmas spirit.
“Good things like this can change people,” said Dobbs. “This show teaches the lesson that Christmas is indeed for everybody.”
IF YOU GO…
WHAT: CAST presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”
WHEN: Dec. 5-7 and 12-14 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 8 and 15 at 2:30 p.m.
WHERE: McClellan Theater, 100 Gamecock Drive, Anniston.
TICKETS: Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for kids and students, and can be purchased at the door or online at castalabama.com.
INFO: Call 256-820-2278