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The Herdman family, played by Andrew Green, Koryn Killerby, Nicholas Hansen, Aiden Markley, Kaitlyn Markley and Hadley Embree, throw a wrench into the annual Chirstmas production in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

Anamosa

The Starlighters II Theatre is set to close out its 45th season by getting into the festive spirit with their production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

The story follows a church Christmas pageant thrown into chaos when the usual director breaks her leg and the Herdman children, “a rough and tough group of siblings from the wrong side of the tracks, descend upon the pageant, lured by the promise of free dessert at Sunday school, and determined to win all the lead roles for themselves,” throw a wrench into the system.

However, initial appearances are eventually turned on their head, which is one of the things Director Victoria Wims connected to with the source material, in addition to the characters and humor.

“I also wanted to bring the deeper meaning to the audience. The reason the Christmas story is told each year. Just as in the Christmas story itself, it is the Herdmans that reveal the beauty of the season to be ‘all wonder and mystery,’” she said. “They remind us that Christmas is not just a date on the calendar that requires a procession of meaningless task to unfold, but that it is a season for change, for acceptance, and a time to stop and soak in the beauty that surrounds us.”

Wims previously directed “Fruitcakes” in 2014 and assisted on “All Through the Night” in 2015. Much like her first directorial project, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” features a large contingent of young actors.

While working with such a large cast presents its challenges, Wims said the positives are worth it. She noted that her grandson participated in “Fruitcakes” and saw his reading level grow by a whole grade through his work in the theater.

“The children work really hard, they put on their performance, they stand in the lobby after the show and 150 people come up to them and say ‘Great job. You were amazing.’ That is my reason for doing it,” she said.

The adult members of the cast have been a big help and are people the kids can really look up to.

Three cast members from “Fruitcakes” are also serving as junior directors for the production. Drew Pate, Tabi Etten and Devon Lack were too old to participate in the production, but have assisted throughout the process. Pate is providing the lighting, Etten is serving as the production’s musical director and Lack is in charge of props and have integrated their ideas and input into the production.

“They have come up with some amazing ideas to strengthen the Christmas message to the audience using music and lights. I am most excited for audiences to see their interpretation,” she said.

The productions opens Friday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m., with additional shows Dec. 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday shows start at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16 for adults, $15 for senior citizens (62 and over) and $15 for students (grades K-college).

The show brings the 45th season to a close and Wims is excited about presenting it to the audience.

“It feels great to close the season with just a beautiful story,” she said.

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