Everything We Love, Hate, Love to Hate, and Hate to Love About the Holidays

​Review of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and The Santaland Diaries at Seattle Public Theater

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There’s plenty of holiday cheer filling up the Seattle Public Theater at the Bathhouse this season. Between its two holiday performances, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and The Santaland Diaries, Seattle Public Theater meets all wintery needs.

A very family-oriented show, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever offers the lightheartedness and caring the holidays are meant to inspire. It’s a show about understanding, giving, and empathy — the essential qualities often forgotten amidst Christmas chaos.

Acted almost entirely by children, who do a superb job, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is remarkably endearing and heartwarming. It tells a relatable tale about a small town’s holiday traditions, namely the church’s Christmas pageant.

The same old pageant is performed every year, to the exasperation of many involved, yet the tradition continues as it always has. That is, until the children of the Herdman family — whose penchant for stealing lunches, picking fights, and general trouble-making has earned them quite a reputation throughout town — suddenly decide to become involved.

Completely throwing things for a loop, the Herdman family’s sudden involvement threatens to ruin the pageant for all, but with a little understanding and kindness, it instead turns out to be, well, the best Christmas pageant ever. This play reaffirms what the holidays are really meant to be about.

The Santaland Diaries similarly finds cheer among the chaos of the now largely consumer-driven Christmas season. The one-man show, an adaptation of a David Sedaris essay, tells the tale of a season spent working as an elf at Macy’s Santaland.

Though overwhelmingly acerbic and sarcastic when he first begins the job, Crumpet the elf develops a unique holiday spirit of his own over time. Crumpet’s anecdotes from behind the scenes of Santaland are absolutely ridiculous and enlightening of how maniacal the holidays can be. What at first seems despicable instead becomes funny, and it becomes clear that even the bad parts of the holiday season are necessary for its overall charm.

Actor Patrick Lennon’s presentation perfectly captures the frank bitterness to be expected of someone who begrudgingly accepts work as an elf. He hilariously delivers cruel and offensive statements while smiling cheerily in his elf costume, complete with candy cane striped tights.

Right from the get-go, The Santaland Diaries assumes holiday resentment, but through funny stories and laughter, a real sense of Christmas spirit develops.

Though their approaches are quite different, both plays lend themselves well to the cheer expected of holiday shows. Seattle Public Theater’s Christmas productions capture everything we love, hate, love to hate, and hate to love about the holidays. Whether attending The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Santaland Diaries, or both, viewers are sure to leave with their holiday spirit shining brighter than before.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The Santaland Diaries

Seattle Public Theater
Through December 24

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