SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ  -  Holy Savior Academy in South Plainfield presented their fall production of Barbara Robinson’s classic story, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, on December 1st.  The cast and crew featured 65 performers from the school’s Drama Club from third through eighth grades.

“I think the kids did a fantastic job,” said Eva Tripodi, Enrichment Teacher and Technical Director of the play.  “They have worked so hard for so many weeks and it all came to fruition tonight.  I’m so proud of them.”

The evening opened with Sacred Heart Parish Rev. John Paul Alvarado’s blessing for the young actors, actresses and stage crew members.

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“That the joy and the fun that we share tonight is not something that is reserved solely to the stage, but what it is we carry beyond and share with one another,” Father John concluded.

The curtain parted and the play began telling the story of how a small town church community found new meaning in Christmas thanks to the Herdmans, six delinquent children, who smoked cigars, cursed, drank wine, and shoplifted. 

It all started when the children known as “the worst kids in town,” Imogene (Maggie Atkins), Gladys (Ava Waldron), Ralph (Matthew Robertson), Leroy (Jadin Collins Roberts), Claude (Porter Duplechan), and Ollie (Gianna Calora), decided to go to church for the first time because they heard there were snacks there.

“We’ve been practicing for a long time and I think everyone really enjoyed it,” said eighth grader Gwen Nieves, who played Alice.  “It was really fun to perform the play and I loved that everyone was laughing.  It was the the greatest prize for working so hard.”

The story of the young misfits unfolded as they misbehaved, intimidated and bullied their way into becoming the leads in the church’s Christmas pageant, much to the dismay of the church members.  Often, the stage erupted in realistic fight scenes between the actors because the Herdmans liked to cause trouble.

The play was narrated by eighth grade student Jamie Metz, who also played the role of Beth.  With the spotlight directed on her, Metz guided the audience through the show, offering insight into the sorted past of the Herdman family.

“It was really fun to be a part of this,” said Metz. “The production took a lot of practice and a lot of hard work, and it really paid off.  It’s a lot of fun.”

The play concluded with the Christmas Pageant as students of all ages filled the stage dressed as angels and shepherds.  The Herdmans waited in the back of the auditorium for their cues to enter.  Gladys, the youngest of the Herdman clan, who had highjacked the part of Archangel Gabriel, ran to the stage carrying a ham wrapped in tin foil as an offering.  According to Metz’s narration, this had been a ham given to them for Christmas by the Welfare Department and was the only thing the Herdmans had ever given away. 

As the rest of the Holy Family joined the others on stage, the eldest Herdman, Imogene, took her place as the Virgin Mary.  Overcome by the beauty of the moment, she shed a tear.  The entire church community was moved that the Herdmans discovered the true meaning of Christmas and realized that they had been harshly judging the children.  Everyone was brought together and the love of Christmas was rediscovered by all through the eyes of the children.

“I really enjoyed it and I’m so proud of them,” said Noemi Bermontiz, aunt of Marissa Nieves, who played Elmer, and Gwen Nieves.  “They’re doing a great job and I love coming here and watching the kids perform.”

“I really liked the play and we worked really hard on it,” said Matthew Robertson, fifth grader.  “We did a really good job.  The teachers helped us a lot.  When we forgot our lines during practice, they would remind us.  We had to study them.”

The audience jumped to their feet to applaud as the show came to an end and the students took their bows.

“It’s just a great show,” said Father John.  “It was the classic Christmas storyline, but really in a way that makes us stop and think.  The children had a good time doing it.  I really enjoyed it and it’s obvious that they’ve worked hard in all their different character parts.”

The Holy Savior Drama Club has been in existence for four years and has grown to include half of the third through eighth grade students.  With months of rigorous practice and dedication, the students perform two shows a year.

“Each production our Drama Club puts on gets better and better,” said Melissa Katsingris, parent of cast member James Katsingris.  “You can really see how much the students enjoy performing.  They put a lot of work to make it come together.”

“They worked very hard and I think they did a wonderful job,” said acting Principal of Holy Savior Judy Francisco. “I thought they showed a lot of composure for such young children to be able to be on stage in front of all of us and the adults that helped them were wonderful.  We have a great faculty.”

The students concluded the performance with kind words of gratitude and gifts for the Supervisors of the Drama Club, Eva Tripodi (Technical Director), Susan Loughlin (Musical Director), and Daneile Micale (Stage Director).

“I’ve been working with some of these kids for a number of years,” said Loughlin, who is also the school’s Music Teacher. “I’ve seen them grow and develop as young actors and actresses and I couldn’t be prouder of the job that they did tonight.”

“The kids do so much work to prepare for this, practicing every day from 2:45-4:30pm,” said parent Adriana Robertson, mother of cast members eighth grader Nicholas, who played the part of the father, and fifth grader Matthew, who played Ralph.

“I love these shows,” said Marissa Nieves, sixth grader who has been in Drama Club since fourth grade. “I think it’s great that we all get to work together and learn how to put on productions because it’s a really good learning experience for everyone.”

“They did an amazing job,” said Maridza Bermontiz, mother of Nieves.  “It is a really good program. I thought it was really funny and the kids enjoyed it.”

The Holy Savior Drama Club is the largest club in school and is open to students from third through eighth grades.

“It is the most popular club in the school,” added Tripodi.  “It’s huge.  It’s a big undertaking and we’ll come back after Christmas break and we’ll start all over again with auditions and rehearsals.”

“The teachers are great at this school,”  added Robertson.  “We love it.  Every year, they do two performances and it’s great.  You can see how they’re so happy and they all enjoy it.  It’s just beautiful.”

This Spring, the students of the Drama Club will be performing The Sound of Music. The school’s Drama Club asks that anyone interested look for announcements of the performance date and come out to see the show.