Christmas time's a comin'

Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Youngsters portraying angels sing for "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Signs of winter and the approaching Christmas are emerging throughout Marshall County as shoppers rule the stores, cities decorate public places, and a pageant opens this week at the community theatre.

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," opening Friday for a two-weekend engagement in the old Dixie Theater here, is the story of six unruly youngsters who, ultimately, teach the true meaning of the birth of the Christ child.

Co-directed by Jim Bingham, a local engineer with offices just around the corner from the Marshall County Community Theatre, and Cornersville Elementary School Principal Bonnie Reese, the play returns to Lewisburg's stage after a 10-year hiatus.

The audience will enter the theatre from Lewisburg's public square, which was decorated last week with sparkling stars and evergreen wreaths placed by Lewisburg Electric System linemen.

A few days later, Mayor Barbara Woods had permission from an old friend to clip greenery from her house to make garlands for the four highway signs welcoming motorists to Lewisburg. Placement this week came when wet weather subsided.

Store sale circulars sent Santa's helpers on shopping trips, and there was a hint of snow in the forecast.

Meanwhile, Bingham summarizes the play about a pageant threatened by hoodlums.

"There's a woman named Mrs. Armstrong - the queen bee, who nobody dared call by her first name -- who directs the pageant at the church, but she breaks her leg and Mrs. Grace Bradley took it over, reluctantly," Bingham said.

"It was going on fine until hoodlums crashed the auditions and took over the main parts, mostly because Grace's son, Charlie, tells them there's food available," he continued, declining to reveal the storyline so as to encourage people to attend the program.

"Before it's all over, they finally get it - the true meaning of Christmas," Bingham said.

There's a cast of 26 children from age 7 to 15. There are half a dozen adults in the cast and they range "from baby angels to the reverends," he said turning to the remarkable tale of the show's performances here.

"I think this is the fifth time that it's been presented by the Marshall County Community Theatre, but the last time was 10 years ago.

"We were practicing during Sept. 11, 2001," Bingham said, recalling the Nashville daily paper sent a reporter to ask about what people were doing on that day of terrorist attacks.

The play about a Christmas pageant had been presented "off and on until 9/11 and then there's a 10-year hiatus," Bingham said.

The show opens Dec. 2, this Friday, with performances on Saturday and Sunday, and then on the following weekend.

Barbara Robinson's beloved Christmas classic was published in 1972.