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Two shows, two versions of the Christmas story at Stage West

Actors in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill, front row: McKinnley Nelson, Rylie Nelson, Christopher Richards. Back row: Noah Noetzel, Zachary Neuhausen, Tyler Strahan, Jonathon Whitcomb. 

CAROL BALLARD | Special to the Times

Actors in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill, front row: McKinnley Nelson, Rylie Nelson, Christopher Richards. Back row: Noah Noetzel, Zachary Neuhausen, Tyler Strahan, Jonathon Whitcomb. 

SPRING HILL

Back in the day, it was called a "double feature" — two movies for the price of one (plus cartoons and newsreels).

That's sort of what Stage West Community Playhouse is offering in its holiday show — a "twofer," namely The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, based on Barbara Robinson's 1972 book of the same name, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, based on Charles M. Schulz's comic strip, Peanuts. Both short plays are suitable for all ages.

"We're doing two shows because we thought that we could incorporate more children into the productions," said Leanne Germann, who is directing Charlie Brown. "We (at Stage West) don't utilize children as much as we would like to. These two shows in particular have 18 to 20 kids, though some of them in are in both shows."

Another good reason to present both shows is that both are short — Best Christmas is about 40 to 45 minutes long, and Charlie Brown is about 35 minutes long — so they make a package about and hour and half long, including a 15-minute intermission, so there's little chance that young patrons might get restless.

And the shows are a good match, since even though they both have Christmas themes, they're really different in tone.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is the tale of how the rambunctious Herdman kids — all six of them — end up playing the leads in the church Christmas pageant, never mind that the Herdmans rarely, if ever, go to church. The kids show up for auditions because they heard that the church served good snacks, and director Grace Bradley (Julie Nelson) casts them for many reasons, not the least of which is that they seem to fit the roles.

The Herdmans end up telling their version of the Christmas story, which isn't exactly the one most people have heard, but contains truths that everyone might need to hear.

Charlie Brown sets it all straight in the second half of the show, when Linus recites straight from the Gospel of Luke from the King James version of the New Testament.

Linus reads this particular passage because Charlie Brown (Tyler Strahan), distressed about the commercialism surrounding the holidays, has begun to doubt he really knows the true meaning of Christmas.

Both plays have been made into TV productions, Charlie Brown in 1965, Best Christmas Pageant in 1983, and have been broadcast every year since then.

Charlie Skelton remembered

A poignant Christmas show, Remembrance, continues at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Richey Suncoast Theatre, 6237 Grand Blvd., New Port Richey.

Written by Kathryn Tilley, it's a reminder of how much the late Charlie Skelton meant to the theater, actors, crew and patrons, and a look at how the theater family is supporting his widow, Marie.

It starts as Charlie dies, shows how his spirit comforted Marie in the months afterward, and recalls some the scenes that he wrote and characters he created for several shows. Act 2 re-creates Charlie's memorial service, when many people recounted his good works and pledged to take care of Marie. Then the show shifts to the present and future, when many of Charlie's dreams for the theater will be fulfilled.

(Note: If you go, take a big handkerchief, because the memories about Charlie will probably bring tears.)

Call (727) 842-6777 for tickets.

. If you go

Christmas at Stage West

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and A Charlie Brown Christmas, at the Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill, Dec. 12 through 15 and Dec. 20 through 22. Shows: 8 p.m., except Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets $12 adults, $8 students. Box office is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturday; from 2 to 8 p.m. Fridays; one hour before shows. Call (352) 683-5113; stagewest.net.

Two shows, two versions of the Christmas story at Stage West 12/03/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 6:55pm]

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