‘Scientology Pageant’: A Ron for your money

By Terry Byrne
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sometimes the best holiday treats are also the least expected.
    That’s the case with ‘‘A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant,” which is one of the funniest holiday spoofs in a long time.

    Much of the joy of ‘‘Scientology Pageant” comes from Jason Southerland’s sleek direction and choreography, as well as his cast of talented children. When these kids play campy or overact, it’s in keeping with the tenor of the story and adds to the fun.

    Composer, lyricist and book writer Kyle Jarrow’s premise is to tell ‘‘the story of stories,” which is not about Jesus - it’s about Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. For the next hour, we are treated to kids telling the story of Hubbard’s life, a versatile guy who represents the culmination of a billion years of evolution. You’ll learn why, and more, in this hilarious show.

    With a collection of decidedly low-tech props - including a surfboard, a boat and a glorious gunbattle with Super Soakers - the kids sing and dance their way through numbers including ‘‘Hey! It’s a Happy Day” and ‘‘L. Ron Hubbard,” backed by a perfectly lame drum machine.

    Jacob Rosenbaum leads the gang as a winning Hubbard, with Gianna Beniers, Kayleigh Cyr, Connor Doherty, Sasha MacDonald, Laura Morell, Sophie Rich and Matthew Scott Robertson playing a variety of roles. Every member of the ensemble has a terrific voice, and when they play celebrity Scientologists, including Kirstie Alley, John Travolta and Tom Cruise, you may get a stitch in your side from laughing so hard.

    The beauty of ‘‘Scientology Pageant,” though, lies in Jarrow’s straightforward presentation of Hubbard’s precepts. You might actually get caught up in the story of Hubbard’s life. Having children act out the elements of Dianetics only points out Scientology’s absurdities. When the ensemble performs ‘‘The Way That It Began,” Hubbard’s link between his religion and his sci-fi novels is spelled out with delirious results.

    By the end of ‘‘Scientology Pageant,” you’ll have a new appreciation for child performers and know that a spoof is no alien concept to them.

    “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant.” Presented by Boston Theatre Works at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Plaza Theatre, through Dec. 16.

tbyrne@bostonherald.com