Director Cheryl Jameson’s pageant is filled with East Coast slang and sensibilities
Now running for eight years, the delightfully cultural experience that is The Best Little Newfoundland Christmas Pageant…Ever! returns to bring out the Newfie in mainlanders (and transplanted East Coasters).
Based on the novel by Barbara Robinson, the play’s St. John’s adaptation tells the Christmas story through the eyes of three kids “from the wrong side of the tracks,” the Herdmans.
Each of them is a bit of a “hard ticket.” The three Herdmans show up to Mrs. O’Brien’s pageant auditions for free snacks and juice.
“All they know about Christmas is that they get a Christmas hamper from the Christmas Bureau every year,” director, producer, and actress Cheryl Jameson says. “It tends to be comical because they sort of turn it on its head and ask questions that people generally don’t ask.”
Some of these questions span why you would give a baby a bunch of precious spices and oil, if wise men are the welfare system, how to shoot up King “Harold,” and why the special baby gets tied up and shoved into a feed box. A large portion of the script plays off of the classic “Oh, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” idioms and curse words used in Eastern Canada.
“A lot of Jesus jokes I guess,” Jameson laughs.
But the jokes are more innocent and tongue-in-cheek than they are sacrilegious.
Jameson, who’s really a mainlander, moved with her now husband to St. John’s for a four-year stint. While she was there, she picked up more than just the way of speaking they have on ‘The Rock.’ While performing in the Newfoundland production of the play, Jameson fell in love with the heart of it all and appreciated the culture of looking out for your neighbour—or their “skeet” kids—that’s so ingrained in the port-side East culture.
“People talk about Newfoundland and they talk about the community feel, the family feel you get there and everybody’s just looking out for everybody, so I think there’s a part of that we bring to the show,” says actor Kayla Gorman who’s been with the show for its full eight years in Alberta.
They tend to draw a different crowd than typically goes to the Varscona, something that’s worth celebrating. The play has become a favourite for many Albertan down-homers that can’t manage the pricey ticket home every Christmas.
“The joke was—I think the first year we were there—we sold out the beer in the first two nights that was set out for our entire run,” Jameson laughs, which she adds, neared the amount of beer the theatre had sold all year.
This year the cast has partnered with the Bissell Centre to accept donations of children’s winter clothing for any children in the city that may need a little extra love this season.
Dec. 15 – 17 and Dec. 20 – 23 (7:30 pm)
The Best Little Newfoundland Christmas Pageant…Ever!