Christmas in South Florida might seem a little… out of place. Without question, Fort Lauderdale has far more sand than snow. (Twenty-one miles of sand. Zero miles of snow!) But more than a thousand cast, crew and choir members – all volunteers from Fort Lauderdale’s flagship First Baptist Church – definitely know how to celebrate America’s favorite holiday.
They combine to present the Fort Lauderdale Christmas Pageant for more than 50,000 audience members annually in the church’s specially designed auditorium/holiday theater. Millions more watch by television, from the heartland of America to unexpected venues like Iraq and China.
Coming to public television stations this Christmas season, the Christmas Pageant isn’t your normal… well… it’s not your normal Christmas Pageant. Amateur dancers begin months in advance to perfect their numbers, choreographed by former principal dancers for the North Carolina Dance Theater. Camels practice their routes, only slightly having to duck their heads to edge through auditorium doors engineered to be "camel-size." The Choir and orchestra (200 voices strong) put away their swimsuits long enough to rehearse Christmas songs at special summer workshops. The result: one of the nation’s most heralded holiday productions, this year celebrating its silver anniversary.
When the Fort Lauderdale Christmas Pageant started 25 years ago, it was one of several such productions. Now it stands as one of the most successful, not only among churches, but alongside similar programs like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
"We’re inspired by Radio City, but our camels get closer," noted artistic director Jeff Crevier, who points out that the dromedaries are just a few feet away from the Christmas Pageant’s audience members as they walk through the center of the crowd.
The program features a Broadway-style opening scene with Christmas favorites, followed by a rousing concert of inspirational holiday songs. The second act tells the life story of Jesus, from the foretelling of His birth to the three years of miracles and teaching to His triumphant return to heaven.
Visit the website at www.christmaspageant.info