On December 14th, the Stars Youth Theater, part of Stars Theater and Arts Center in Fuquay-Varina, closed their one-weekend only run of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Under the direction of Stars Artistic Director Cindy Varian, this impressive cast of children told the Christmas story through the eyes of young Beth Bradley, played by Cameron Phelan, as she watches the feared Herdman family infiltrate the annual church Christmas pageant in her hometown. The enthusiastic cast carried off the performance with minimal adult influence – three of the four adult actors in the production played only small roles – and gave audiences a funny and fresh perspective on the Christmas story from the mouths of children.
Reagan Higgins and Elizabeth Griffin welcomed the audience with rich vocal performances prior to the curtains opening, and then went on to join their peers as performers, Higgins as an angel and Griffin as Imogene Herdman incarnate. Amanda McBrayer performed with poise beyond her years as Grace Bradley, gentle matriarch and director of the Christmas pageant. Cameron Casino was funny and endearing as father Bob Bradley, while young Cameron Phelan took on the great responsibility of the lead role of Beth Bradley and carried it off as a natural. Whether his future lies in acting or politics is unclear, but with his immediately apparent charisma, Adolfo Lunardi, who played brother Charlie Bradley, is going places.
The amusing peeks into the personality of each angel and shepherd on stage reminded onlookers of their childhood Christmas pageants: angels playing with their wings and halos, a shepherd losing his crook, and the one little one singing with all her joy, full voice, whether she knows the words or not. These little moments evolved the Stars Youth Theater’s production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever into a true community Christmas pageant. After the curtain, Director Cindy Varian announced the upcoming meeting to discuss what the children might be performing next to the energetic applause of the young cast.
The enthusiasm and cultivated love for the arts was apparent on the face of each child in the Stars cast. With this accomplishment, Varian and the staff of Stars Theater and Arts Center met and exceeded the mission of the center – to develop self-confidence through the arts – and we can’t wait to see what they do next.