Landless Theatre Company’s “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant,” opening tonight at the D.C. Arts Center in Adams Morgan, has all the trappings of a well-funded elementary school Christmas pageant: matching white robes and rainbow socks, tinsel halos, a Suri Cruise puppet.
It also has a rotating cast of preternaturally intelligent tween method actors — adorable urchins who soften the blows as the satirical musical tells the story of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology — in the same manner that one might tell the story of Jesus.
You’ll just want to pinch little L. Ron’s cheeks when he slays wartime enemies and reasons with doubters. And though there’s no doubt that this musical frequently is critical of Scientology, you might also come away understanding that its appeal is complicated.
So what’s the story? Well, the all-kid cast, Christmas pageant set and cheesy boy-band score were part of the original concept for “Pageant,” written by Kyle Jarrow from a concept by Alex Timbers and staged first in New York in 2003. Needless to say, it quickly exploded into a cult and critical favorite, due in no small part to the cute kids, funny title and the subversiveness of staging a musical about the creator and followers of Scientology.
$18; DCAC members $15 at the door. Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. Through Jan. 13. D.C. Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. Visit http://www.landlesstheatrecompany.org.
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