Payton Shoffner, Libby Carr and Sophia Sanchez

Limelight Youth Theatre thespians in the upcoming Christmas musical include, from left, Payton Shoffner, Libby Carr and Sophia Sanchez.

A talented young East Valley cast at the Limelight Youth Theatre will be presenting the beloved holiday musical, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” later this month.

The play is based on a children’s novel written by Barbara Robinson in 1971 and tells the story of six misfit children who volunteer to star in their town’s Sunday school Christmas pageant and end up teaching the town the true meaning of Christmas.

The book is narrated in first person perspective by the unnamed daughter of the pageant’s director.

The six children are juvenile delinquents who smoke, cuss, drink jug wine and shoplift and despite their poor performance, steadily pass through elementary school since holding any one of them back would mean having two or more of them in the same grade.

They go to Sunday school for the first time after being told the church offers snacks and end up volunteering for the school Christmas play. Since they’ve bullied all the usual cast members into remaining silent during the call for volunteers, the director has no choice but to cast them.

Having never heard the Christmas story before, the misfits take an uncharacteristic interest. Everyone in town is expecting a disaster but the kids unconventional performances actually make the whole show more realistic and moving.

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

The book was adapted by Robinson into a play and first performed in 1982 and since then has been a favorite for children’s theater and the kids such popular characters they were featured in two sequels, “The Best Halloween Ever” and “The Best School Year Ever.”

The musical will be presented Dec. 13-22 at Studio 3 Artspace Theatre, 511 W. Guadalupe Road, Gilbert but three dates already have sold out. Tickets are still available for Dec. 13, 15, 18 and 20-22. Admission is $15 and tickets can be purchased at Group discounts are available by calling 480-480-545-1492.

The cast includes Mesa thespians William Lovell, 12; Abigail Lovell, 10; Elliot Lovell, 8; David Lovell, 7; Abby Springer, 12; Aston Grantham, 13; Samia Hankinson-Miller, 9; Owen Aspinwall, 11; Imogene Herdman, 12; Edward Oster, 8; and Jonas Boyer, 11.

Chandler residents in the case are Kaleb Vallier Schulken, 12; Riley Wiggins, 13; Emily Colmenero, 12; Camryn Taylor, 13; Anna Alvarez, 13; Janelle Frazier, 9; Tyler Berger, 13; Kaylee Delgado, 11; Emily Colmenero, 12; and Sophia Sanchez, 13.

Gilbert young people in the cast include Libby Carr, 16; Olivia Gregory, 11; Zoe Hatziathanassioum 12; Remi Rasmussen, 7; Peyton Shoffner, 12; Brandon Bui, 12; Tara Todd, 7; Mason Todd, 12; and Piper Perea, 11.

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