Although the title of NativeAliens Theatre Collective’s The Harvey Milk Elementary School
Christmas Holiday Pageant might lead to the expectation of a camp-filled romp at the expense of all that’s held dear about the December holidays, the conception (by director Scott Gilmore) is far more subtle than that. Mrs. Reed (Gilmore) greets the parents/audience and advises that this pageant was put together by the students, and that she and the school cannot be held accountable for what we are about to see.
To be sure, there are the some terrifically over-the-top numbers: the new lyrics to "Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)" are sung by Jeff Seabaugh, an angel at the top of a Christmas tree, as "Who Put the Stump (In My Rump, Rump, Rump)"; there’s a delightfully loony "Twelve Days of Christmas," stolen by Maureen Cantara’s "six geese a-laying" and Helen Bessette’s not-quite-certainty that the partridge in a pear tree was secure on her head. The real sense is that this pageant is almost exactly what school kids would offer if given their own authority to stage a holiday show. Some of it is sweetly heartfelt showing-off (Nancy Rogers’s "I’ll be Home for Christmas"), some tasteless juvenilia (a "Carol of the Bells" that becomes more and more oppressive to poor, tortured Lisa Shaheen), some things that kids would consider cutting edge that are humorous in ways the kids wouldn’t understand (a hip-hop "White Christmas" done as if it were Vanilla Ice’s "Ice Ice Baby").
There’s a sense, too, that much of the stuff is at a level older than elementary school, but then there will be something like "Melekalikimaka" (you know, that Christmas hula), where Inga Hyatt gets just right the awkward attempt at smoothness and the wild-eyed terror of a kid who’s not quite sure why she’s up on stage. She was similarly funny as part of the group performing "Sleigh Ride," and her solo "I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus." And just when it seems that for elementary-schoolers these kids fidget, scratch, and twitch very little, in the middle of "The Dreidle Song" Hyatt runs off the stage, badly in need of a bathroom. Jodi Lynn Smith also captured a childlike enjoyment of performing with "Blue Christmas," where she wouldn’t let her glee at singing on stage be hidden behind the mask she carried.
There’s quite a lot of very good singing (Samara Doucette’s "A Place Called Home"), "The Little Drummer Boy" (Tyler Ashby Jones); as well as more stuff the kids would find funnier than their audience ("Santa Baby" with Shenan Reed Golimbu; "Suzi Snow Flake," with Doucette and Jones; and a take-off on smarmy Christmas TV specials). But then there’s perfection in the gratuitously token appearance of a song about Kwanzaa, and the wonderful, completely erroneous pronunciation of Hebrew words in "Hava Negila" and "To Life" (from Fiddler on the Roof). Delaney has contributed an original song, "With You It’s Christmas" that stands proudly with the classics.
The costumes showed that the kids had the help of supportive parents (designed by Mary Morris and Cynthia Russell), and Kim Parker’s lighting similarly showed that more than an English teacher was in charge of illumination. The kids (and the performers) are having lots of fun so in the end, it doesn’t matter if it would appeal mainly to the kids' only-this-far-developed sense of humor. This sort of thing knows no sexual orientation, and even if it’s a little too subtle for its own good, it’s hard to resist.
Also with Alice Bugman, Caroline Smith, Mary Tarochione.
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Copyright 2002 David Mackler