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Holiday classics come to HART


Hillsboro hosts pair of Christmas-themed plays to get holiday spirit into gear

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Tony Smith, Jody Spradlin, Aaron Morrow and Ilana Watson play radio actors voicing all theparts in a live coast-to-coast broadcast of the Christmas classic 'Its A Wonderful Life.' Hillsboro Artists’ Regional Theatre delivers twice the fun this Christmas season with two holiday classics on stage during November and December.

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” opens Friday, Nov. 22, and “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play” opens Thanksgiving night, Thursday, Nov. 28.

“It gives the audience more choice,” said Ray Hale, co-artistic director. “These are very popular plays and people are always asking us to do them again.”

Hale directs a young cast in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

From the book by Barbara Robinson, the play showcases the infamous Herdman children, known also as “The Worst Kids in the World.” Going to Sunday school because they heard the church served snacks, the delinquent children are erroneously given roles in the church’s annual Christmas pageant. Played by actors Sarah Felder, Rachael Schoen, Grace Malloy, Christian Vece and Yoonie Shin, the Herdman’s shenanigans take the annual pageant in an original direction.

“Christmas is about children,” Hale said, “and this just provides a great opportunity to celebrate.”

The STAGES Performing Arts Youth Academy Show Choir will perform special Christmas pieces before every performance and join the production as part of the Angel Choir.

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play” is directed by Paul Roder. “This particular show is near and dear to me because I am fond of the era,” Roder said. He has directed the play twice before, once at HART. by: COURTESY PHOTO - The worst kids in the world are played by Sarah Felder, (back row from left) Rachael Schoen, Grace Malloy, Christian Vece, and Yoonie Shin in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

Staged as a live radio show at station WBFR on Christmas Eve 1946, five actors perform dozens of parts in the drama, plus sound effects. They tell the story of George Bailey, who having given up his dreams to help others and contemplating suicide, is shown by his guardian angel how many lives he’d touched and how different his town would be had he never been born.

The adaptation by Joe Landry is very close to the beloved film, Roder said, with all of the character and most of the dialogue. But with more, he said, an added perspective, “a fresh take on it.”

Actors Arron Morrow, Jody Spradlin, Ilana Watson, Tony Smith and Karen Roder recreate the feeling of the live radio broadcast, complete with commercial breaks. Singers add period songs and Christmas carols before the show and during intermission.

“I think it will be an appealing alternative to football or some of the movies that open on Thanksgiving,” Roder said.