LUVERNE - If there’s one way to shake up a church Christmas pageant that features the same people, the same costumes and the same story year after year, casting the unruly and unchurched Herdman children is a sure way to do it.

The Herdmans - the kids who steal lunches and terrorize their peers - provide the comic relief in the Green Earth Players upcoming performance of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

The story, based on a book by the same name, tells of the mayhem that takes place after Mrs. Armstrong, the woman who runs everything in the church - including the pageant - breaks a leg.

Grace Bradley, a mother inexperienced with planning a production, steps in as pageant director, but she gets more than she bargained for when the Herdman kids - who learn free dessert is served during Sunday School - show up and are determined to win the lead roles.

The Ladies Aid Society is up in arms, as is seemingly everyone else.

Suddenly, nothing is as it used to be. Perhaps that’s OK.

“The Herdmans are cast as Mary and Joseph and Mrs. Bradley is stuck with them. They’ve never even heard of the Christmas story,” said GEP’s LaDonna Van Aartsen, who is directing the production. “During the (pageant), they learn how special the baby Jesus was.”

The Herdmans are among a cast of 40 children and 10 adults who have spent the past six weeks rehearsing Christmas music and learning lines in preparation for Friday night’s debut on the stage of the Historic Palace Theatre in Luverne.

Van Aartsen said 80 children tried out for roles, with those cast hailing from the Luverne, Hills, Edgerton, Ellsworth and Adrian area. The youngest cast member is 5 years old. Of the 10 adults cast in the production, there are both new faces and veteran GEP performers.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9-11 and Nov. 15-18 at the Palace Theatre. Tickets may be reserved by calling the Palace Box Office at (507) 283-4339.