The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
First edition
AuthorBarbara Robinson
IllustratorJudith Gwyn Brown
CountryUnited States
PublisherHarper & Row
Publication date
Followed byThe Best Halloween Ever 

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (titled "The Worst Kids in the World" in Australia, New Zealand and the UK) is a book written by Barbara Robinson in 1971. It tells the story of Imogene, Claude, Ralph, Leroy, Ollie, and Gladys, six delinquent children named the Herdmans who were engaged in misfit behavior for their age such as smoking, cussing, drinking jug wine, and shoplifting. They go to church for the first time after being told that the church offers snacks. Despite protests from other church members, they are given roles in the Sunday school's Christmas play, in which they tell the Christmas story in a nonconventional fashion.[1]

In its amiable combination of farce and spirituality, the story appears to be a modern-day reimagining of the medieval Second Shepherds' Play (q.v.: [2]) -- the proper name "Herdman" being a thinly disguised transform of "Shepherd."

Robinson first published the story in McCall's magazine before it was adapted into a book, which sold over 800,000 copies.[1]

Stage and Screen Adaptations[edit]

The book was adapted by Robinson into a play which was first performed on November 26, 1982 by the Seattle Children's Theatre.[3] "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" is a play performed annually for over 20 years by Stage One, the world renowned Theatre for Young Audiences in Louisville, KY. Other theatres that have performed the play are the Public Theatre of Kentucky in Bowling Green, KY, and by The Communication Department of Mississippi College in Clinton, MS. The book was next adapted into a television movie on ABC in 1983, starring Loretta Swit. Robinson also wrote this adaptation's teleplay.[1]

First Stage in Milwaukee has presented the show nine times since 1990. In 2018, they are producing the musical version. First Stage always utilizes Age Appropriate Casting.

The Herdmans were featured in two sequels, The Best Halloween Ever! and The Best School Year Ever.

In November 2016, the Children's Theatre of Charlotte in Charlotte, NC, premiered The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical written by Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartener and featuring a cast of both student and professional adult actors. The musical had the highest ticket sales of any show in the theatre's history, causing CTC to remount the show in the 1900 season.