A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant
Deck the halls with Dianetics
by Jenna Scherer
Wed, November 29, 2006
Even as I’m typing this,
overpaid celebrity handlers are packing Suri Cruise into an
infant-sized space pod, swathing her in thetan-shielding blankets and
praying for her safe journey to the intergalactic realms of her alien
But the good
Lord commandeth: Let us not cast barbs at the
That would be Kyle Jarrow’s
A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant,
a cute little production that upends the cringe-inducing Christmas
pageant tradition, substituting Jesus with L. Ron. Like any kiddie
holiday production worth its salt, Scientology Pageant opens
with paper snowflakes, piped-in keyboards and a pint-sized angel
singing about hope and love. Soon, the whole cast comes out sporting
purple choir robes and baby-toothed smiles, singing with unchecked
jubilation: “Hey! It’s a happy day / Hey! It’s a holiday!” There’s no
self-aware wink here; it’s a setting fit for Charlie Brown and his
dinky Christmas tree.
In the mold of
an old-school nativity performance, the hour-long show celebrates the
life and teachings of Our Lord and Savior, L. Ron (Jacob Rosenbaum).
We’re talking the official Church of Scientology version here—L. Ron
the guru, world traveler and war hero, not L. Ron the sadistic con man
The kids enact his birth (in a manger, natch) and rise from sci-fi novelist to religious leader. Along the way, we’re introduced to the main tenets of Scientology through song, dance and a whole mess of logical leaps. A dancing brain (Gianna Beniers and Sasha MacDonald) explains the theory of Dianetics: “Now the sun will shine / Now we’ll be just fine / Now we’ve got the science of the mind.” L. Ron travels the world converting naysayers, Buddhist monks and IRS agents to his way of thinking, and they sing his praises (“Thank God for Dianetics!” “No, thank L. Ron!”).
Scientology Pageant even includes a scene where cast members act out the Church’s auditing procedure with wooden puppets; there’s also “The Way That It Began,” a song presenting Scientology’s intergalactic creation myth. It all seems like perfect fodder for children’s theatre—far-fetched, Day-Glo and ridiculous—until we remember that people actually believe this shit.
the kiddie pageant format, Jarrow has found a perfect arena for his
subject. When you’re writing for children, you can get away with a
lot—specifically, a wide-eyed simplicity that would come off as idiotic
in the hands of adults. Plus, there’s something wonderfully creepy
about putting terrifying words in the mouths of babes (“And I will do,
do, do anything that you tell me / ‘Cause it’s you, you, you who can
set me free”). It’s a kind of earnestness that no one past puberty
could ever hope to pull off.
the kids in Boston Theatre Works’ production seem a little too
in the know—most are relatively seasoned performers, complete with
irrepressible hamminess and an over-developed sense of irony. Still,
their level of experience pays off with truly quality singing and
highly watchable acting. As L. Ron, seventh-grader Rosenbaum oozes
enough charisma to be a cult founder himself. Laura Morell, the cast’s
oldest (and tallest) member, plays Scientology convert Annie with a
weight and presence that stands out against the overwhelming jollity.
Southerland knows when to rein the kids in, and more importantly, when
to let them go nuts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a finer “time passes”
moment onstage than the cast’s 20-second squirt gun reenactment of
World War II.
Jarrow’s got a
promising career ahead of him. Scientology Pageant has
already taken the off-Broadway scene by storm, and deservedly so.
Social commentary aside, Jarrow’s melodies are insanely catchy. BTW has
already commissioned the Brooklyn-based whiz kid to write a new
musical, Love Kills, which workshops this month at the
Pageant will mostly make you piss your pants with laughter, it
never lets you forget that this cult religion is very much alive and
well, and screwing its converts out of cash and sanity by the hour. Not
that the idea of the human race being born from the souls of dead
aliens scattered around volcanoes is any more improbable than a hippie
carpenter rising from the grave and making us drink his bodily fluids;
but still, ick.
A VERY MERRY UNAUTHORIZED
CHILDREN’S SCIENTOLOGY PAGEANT
BCA PLAZA THEATRE
TUE-THU ; FRI-SAT ; SUN