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'Best Christmas Pageant' starts Dec. 12

"Best Christmas Pageant Ever" actors include, from left, Matthew Feia, Hudson; Riley Culver, River Falls; Morgan Peters, Hudson; Jennifer Holster, Hudson; Cameron Schmalz, Woodbury; and Isaac Verdoorn, Hudson. Submitted photo.

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” will be produced by The Phipps Children’s Theater Dec. 12-15 at The Phipps Center for the Arts.

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” by Barbara Robinson, concerns the efforts of Grace Bradley and her husband to put on the annual church Christmas pageant despite having to cast the Herdman kids - “probably the meanest, nastiest, most inventively awful kids in the history of the world!”

Director John Nickolaus-Johnson and assistant director Keith Nickolaus-Johnson said they feel “‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ isn’t about the Herdmans. It isn’t about the Bradley family. It isn’t even so much about a pageant. To us, it’s a story about Jesus and how his birth still changes us and affects us to this day. The original book, the stage version and even the made for TV movie all hint at this; but like with so many aspects of Christmas, the true meaning of the holiday gets overshadowed. Our goal with this production is to retain all of the humor and charm associated with the story while still reminding people what Christmas is all about.”

Rather than setting the show in the ‘70s, when the original story took place, the directors decided to modernize it to make the story feel as relevant for today’s audience as it was when it was first written 41 years ago. “We hope that the audience, along with the Herdmans, will feel as though they are experiencing the story of the nativity for the first time.”

John Nickolaus-Johnson has been working in Twin Cities theater for close to 30 years. On stage he has played a wide variety of roles ranging from the lovable Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” to the overbearing Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady.” Other credits include the Baker in “Into the Woods,” Oliver Warbucks in “Annie,” Noah Curry in “The Rainmaker,” and Beast in “Beauty and the Beast.”

Keith Nickolaus-Johnson has been working in theater throughout most of his life. In the past few years has he branched out into directing. On stage he has played a number of roles, including Seymour in “The Little Shop of Horrors,” Nicely Nicely Johnson in “Guys and Dolls,” File in “The Rainmaker,” and The Wolf/ Cinderella’s Prince in “Into the Woods.”

Only five performances will be given on the main stage Dec. 12-15 on Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., as well as Sunday at 2 p.m. The Sunday matinee is sold out.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for students 18 years and younger. Reservations may be made by contacting The Phipps ticket office at (715) 386-8409 or online at