published Friday, December 9th, 2011

'Best Christmas Pageant Ever' at CTC

IF YOU GO

What: "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."

When: 8 p.m. today, Saturday, Dec. 16-17 and Dec. 23; 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19-20 and Dec. 22; and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 18.

Where: Chattanooga Theatre Centre (MainStage), 400 River St.

Admission: $10-$25 (opening night, $15-$30).

Phone: 267-8534.

Website: www.theatrecentre.com.

SPECIAL NIGHTS

Tonight: Opening-night reception at 7 p.m. precedes 8 p.m. show.

Dec. 16: Talk-back session with director Chuck Tuttle and members of the cast follows 8 p.m. show.

Dec. 22: Real-time captioning for deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members.

Dec. 23: Girls Night Out sponsored by Brewer Media.When: 8 p.m. today, Saturday, Dec. 16-17 and Dec. 23; 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19-20 and Dec. 22; and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 18.

Nothing says Christmas like a family of bullies, but that's what the Chattanooga Theatre Centre is serving up for the next three weeks.

In truth, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," a co-production of the MainStage and Youth Theatre seasons, focuses on redemption more than bullying in the face of the true spirit of the season, according to director Chuck Tuttle.

"Everybody deserves a chance at redemption," he said. "It would be a horrible thought if every horrible person stayed evil."

The play, adapted for the stage by Barbara Robinson from her original story, opens tonight and will be offered nine additional times through Dec. 23.

Many good Christmas stories have characters, such as Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" and the Grinch in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," who are redeemed, Tuttle said.

In the story, the Herdman children are known as the worst kids in the history of the world, but the idea of free snacks lures them into church for its annual Christmas pageant one year.

Chaos naturally ensues, but, by the night of the actual pageant, something akin to the miracle at the first Christmas occurs.

Bullies, on the surface, are not funny, Tuttle said, but the Herdman children wind up touching hearts because they start thinking about and caring about what they're involved with.

"Deep down, they're not bullies," he said.

Tuttle said he intentionally didn't set the play at a particular time, but elements such as the lack of cell phones and the necessity for ears to be pierced by a doctor move it back from the present.

"It hails back to a much sweeter time when people weren't so paranoid," he said.

It is also narrated by an adult looking back at her childhood, Tuttle said.

Accentuating the seasonal aspect of the show is a preshow audience sing-along by the production's baby angels choir.

In addition, area firefighters and ministers have cameo roles in the shows throughout its run.

"That adds a community feel to it," Tuttle said. "It's a great fit."

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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