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Idaho State University have opportunity to create new musical version of ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Musical’

April 15, 2016

Idaho State University students will have the opportunity to help create a new musical version of the “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Musical” during a weeklong workshop put on by actors, and artistic and music directors from Washington, Oregon, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

The workshop with students will begin on April 24 and run until the staged reading on April 29. Students will have the opportunity to rehearse the production with the guest artists, and help to fine-tune the script in the process.

At the end of the ISU workshop, the students will conduct a staged reading on April 29 at 7 p.m. in the Bistline Theatre in the Stephens Performing Arts Center. The reading is free and open to the public and should be a good show for the whole family. Following the performance, there will be a talk back where the audience will be encouraged to give their input.

“The director and writers of the play want input and perspective from community members and also want the community to ask questions,” said Vanessa Ballam, ISU assistant professor of theatre. “The audience of the staged reading will play a big part in the final constructing the play.”

Ballam was approached to have this opportunity while performing at the Oregon Cabaret in Ashland, Oregon, last fall. The developers of the play wanted to work with a university that was excited about the project, and ISU fit the bill.

“I was absolutely flattered that they wanted ISU to be a part of the development of this musical,” Ballam said. “It is a great opportunity for our students to get to be a part of the creation of a story.”

Seventeen students and one alumni will be part of the cast. Ballam will also be in the musical, which will be the first time that ISU students have shared the stage with her.

The librettist and composer, Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner, have published more than 130 books for juveniles and young adults, and their musicals have been performed around the country. The developmental workshop team also features Jeff Steitzer, actor and director from Seattle, Adam Burke, artistic director of Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and Sarah Wussow, a music director from Wisconsin.

The group will also hold masterclasses for all theatre students about how to make it in the theatre profession and audition techniques. After the ISU workshop, the final version of the script, featuring ISU students’ artistic input, will have its professional premiere on November 25 at the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte.

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Musical” is the story of the Herdman family, who are the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal, bully other kids and they smoke smelly cigars. There used to be only one place where you’d never see them––church. This all changes when Charlie Bradley brags that his Sunday school offers free snacks.

All six of the Herdmans show up at church in search of pizza, cookies and Hawaiian punch and end up in the Christmas Pageant. Charlie’s mom, Grace, is the novice director, who not only casts them in the show, but to the dismay of the other kids, let’s them play all the leads. Grace instantly finds herself caught between two forces of nature––the Herdmans and Helen Armstrong, who speaks for all the outraged citizens of the town. Grace has two choices: get rid of the poor bedraggled bunch of kids or let them stay and risk being blamed for the worst pageant in the history of the world. The play is based on the best-selling book, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson, published in 1971.

For more information, contact Vanessa Ballam at 282-3173 of ballvane@isu.edu.




Performing Arts