Best Bets: Children's Theatre brings 'Best Christmas Pageant Ever' to Dover

By Craig Horleman
Posted 12/3/21

Art imitates life for The Children’s Theatre this weekend as the troupe presents the musical comedy, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

In the show, the Herdmans, who are the …

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Best Bets: Children's Theatre brings 'Best Christmas Pageant Ever' to Dover

Posted

Art imitates life for The Children’s Theatre this weekend as the troupe presents the musical comedy, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

In the show, the Herdmans, who are the worst kids in the history of the world, end up at church, when Charlie Bradley brags that his Sunday school offers free snacks. All six of the Herdmans show up in search of pizza, cookies and Hawaiian Punch, and end up in the Christmas pageant.

Charlie’s mom, Grace, takes over the show when the play’s usual director, Mrs. Armstrong, breaks her leg. Grace not only casts the Herdmans in the show but, much to the dismay of the other kids, let’s them play all the leads.

Grace instantly finds herself the ire of outraged citizens of the town. She has two choices — get rid of the Herdmans or let them stay and risk being blamed for the worst pageant in the history of the world.

There’s a true-life portion of “Best Christmas Pageant,” as the local show almost didn’t have a director either. The original director moved to Florida, which left the actors in a lurch. Sharon Crossen, the longtime head of The Children’s Theater, was stepping back from directing and scrambled to find someone to fill in.

“Our children were craving a creative outlet. Audiences were also hungry for live theater; thus, we decided to do this Christmas show,” Ms. Crossen said.

Enter Jennifer and Ben Snyder. The Dover couple has four kids involved in the troupe, and Ms. Snyder has been assistant director in the past. Mr. Snyder had no experience in the theater world, however.

“We got asked to see if we would co-direct, and we really didn’t have the time. We had a daughter that was sick, and Jennifer had just started a new job and is working all the time. We really didn’t have the time to do it. But then, we found out that Sharon was going to do it with us, and we had to do it,” Mr. Snyder said.

“Whenever our kids knew that she was going to be the director, they immediately wanted to do the play. There is nobody better to learn from and we did it and we somehow survived this so far.”

While Ms. Crossen prefers not to talk about herself, she said “Team Snyder” is doing a great job.

“Next year, they will be on their own. They know what directing entails. It is a huge responsibility, but our parent volunteers make every show successful, along with their talented kids. It has been a pleasure working with Team Snyder.”

The Snyders’ daughter, Evie, 16, is part of the show and is a student director, having been involved since she was 8. Their other three children, Noelle, 14; Quentin, 11; and Zoey, 7, have all followed in her footsteps and are all in the cast of this weekend’s staging.

“(In the beginning), we kind of made Quentin do it, and now, he’s having a blast because a lot of his friends are in it. It’s hard to get a lot of boys interested. We’ve got a lot less of them. But he looks forward to coming now,” Mr. Snyder said.

Mr. and Ms. Snyder said they are having a great time directing the 41-member cast.

“I kind of missed my shot (at directing) because of other things. So when this came up I was like, ‘Oh, I have to do it.’ Sharon is the best to learn from. I’ve done costumes and props and backstage and everything else practically, except for that,” Ms. Snyder said.

Along with Ms. Crossen, Mr. Snyder credits the kids involved for how well everything is going.

“This is the nicest, kindest, best-behaved group of kids you can find. They’re really, really awesome. I’ve coached Little League before, but this group of kids is just great,” he said.

The two agreed that it is important for the kids to keep The Children’s Theater going, especially after the last couple of years with COVID-19.

“This is such an important part of our kids’ lives, and our kids kind of brought theater to us. Two of the girls here ... kind of took (Evie) under their wing and made her feel like she had a place to go to, and she said she wanted to do that for some other kids in our community. Sharing this is such an important part of our community. It’s an important part of our lives,” Mr. Snyder said.

With two shows under their belts earlier this year, the young cast members are very happy to get back to doing what they love, and they think it will be good for audience members, as well.

“This is something that a bunch of people will want to come and see,” said 9-year-old Kinlee Herman, who plays Gladys, the youngest of the Herdman kids.

“COVID was kind of like a lockup and now people are finally getting to come see like plays in real life. It’s not like you have to watch it on TV. It’s like you get to go there. You get to experience it all.”

Emily DeMarie, 16, who plays Mrs. Armstrong, says despite some of the precautions taken due to the ongoing threat of COVID, she is glad to return to the stage where she’s been since she was 8. This is her first show since 2018.

“Even though it’s different with clear masks and social distancing, it feels very refreshing to be back doing what we all love to do. And I think everyone will love the show. There isn’t a lot going on because of COVID right now. We hope everyone’s going to come back and be like ‘Oh my gosh, we’re back.’ I think it’s very exciting,” she said.

Lillian Mandalas plays Grace, the novice director, and is also a student director of the show itself.

“I know personally after lockdown, this is just what I needed — something funny and lighthearted and kind of brings us all together to really put on something amazing.” she said.

The Children’s Theater will present the play at the Schwartz Center for the Arts, 226 S. State St., Dover Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets for all seats are $10 at the door or through Eventbrite.com. The Children’s Theatre does request that all audience members wear masks to the performances.

Holiday Stroll

Downtown Milford Inc.’s 17th annual Holiday Stroll will take place Saturday from 4 to 9 p.m.

The day includes decorated shops, bakeries, restaurants and art galleries, complimentary treats, wagon rides, children’s activities, and live holiday music.

This year’s Holiday Stroll will feature an outdoor Christmas Market along the Riverwalk.

For more information, contact Downtown Milford, Inc. at director@downtownmilford.org or call 302-839-1180.

‘Holiday Memories on Ice’

The Bay Country Figure Skating Club will welcome audiences back to the stands for the club’s annual winter show at 6 p.m. today and 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday at the Centre Ice Rink at Delaware State Fair in Harrington.

For “Holiday Memories on Ice,” skaters will take audiences on a trip down memory lane, performing to holiday music from beloved classics to new favorites.

Advance tickets cost $10 for adults and children older than age 8, $8 for ages 2 to 8 and free admission for children under age 2. Tickets at the door will cost $12 for adults and children older than age 8, $10 for ages 2 to 8 and free for under age 2.

For more information, visit here and click the Centre Ice Rink icon, or call 302-398-5900.

McKnight in Harrington

Speaking of Harrington, it was announced this week that Grammy award-winning R&B recording artist Brian McKnight is scheduled to perform at Harrington Raceway and Casino’s Exhibit Hall March 19.

By the age of 19, Mr. McKnight signed his first recording deal with Mercury Records. In 1992, his self-titled album “Brian McKnight” was released followed by “I Remember You” (1995) and “Anytime” (1997). “Anytime” would sell over 2 million copies and was nominated for a Grammy. Shortly after, McKnight released “Back At One” which would go on to sell over 2 million copies.

Tickets are $75 for the all-ages 8 p.m. show and go on sale today at 10 a.m. They can be purchased here or at the Casino Gift Shop.