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A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant; Exceptions to Gravity
November 28, 2006 2:48:41 PM

As the world’s most famous Scientologist honeymoons in the Maldives, junior-bird-man havoc is being wreaked on Tom Cruise’s ideology of choice. The Obie-winning one-hour musical A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant (presented by Boston Theatre Works at the BCA Plaza Theatre through December 24) subjects L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the religion, to an away-in-a-manger treatment by an enthusiastic group of children whose mother’s milk must have been 1980s pop and who tell the great man’s story with a collective straight face. Yes, that’s right, actual kids in purple choir robes and other bits and pieces of church-basement costume, singing, boogieing, and otherwise celebrating Hubbard’s epic life — reduced here to a cartoon travelogue of questioning, self-discovery, and fervent exploitation of the lost.

The satire itself is far from sophisticated, and the songs make Godspell sound like Sondheim. If this show were performed by adults, or by adults playing children, it would just be a goof. That the mock-worshipful send-up of a power-of-positive-thinking guru who some would argue made a mint by offering pseudo-scientific spiritual guidance to the vulnerable is performed, with a mix of art and artlessness, by a geeky crew of kids is what gives it its edge. So it’s hard to know whether to give greater credit to Kyle Jarrow, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics, or Alex Timbers, who hatched the concept. Whichever, the pair came up with a sublimely silly, stealthily scathing hour of power that in Jason Southerland’s production is the most holiday fun to come our way since the Grinch.

Scientology Pageant first saw the light of day three years ago when it was produced Off Broadway by Les Frères Corbusier; it went on to win a 2004 Obie and ruffle the feathers of the head of the Church of Scientology of New York. (That doubtless sold more tickets.) Performed on and around yellow bleachers before some red curtains and hanging snowflakes, the show deploys an ensemble of eight kids ranging in age from 8 to 15. (The original New York cast were 8-to-12, which would work better; there’s one young lady here who dispenses her task of enacting a lonely young woman co-opted by Scientology with an apt mix of sadness and zombie-ism, but she looks ready for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire whereas the others are still Sorcerer’s Stone material.) After bouncing through an upbeat opener and squabbling over which of them will play L. Ron (pronounced “El-Ron,” conjuring up Elrond from The Lord of the Rings), the kids do indeed bop on bearing a little manger. Crouching behind it, his face in the straw, smiles 12-year-old Jacob Rosenbaum as L. Ron entering the world in 1911 in Tilden, Nebraska (already wearing braces). And the sacrilege doesn’t stop there.

Of course, Hubbard never claimed to be God — though he dabbled in just about everything but deity, as this informative albeit irreverent biographical frolic points out, engaging in repeated recitations of its subject’s occupations, from atomic physicist and science-fiction author to horticulturist and choreographer. (There’s even a sci-fi interlude, complete with planetary cutouts and neon-light effects, based on Hubbard’s thesis that thetan spirits entered earthlings after being banished here by an evil galactic ruler.) Sophie Rich, in tinsel halo, wings, lace-trimmed socks, and sneakers, narrates most of the tale. An accomplished singer/actress with a résumé as long as your arm, Rich, for all her experience, exudes the proud, buoyant amateurism that Southerland foxily builds into the endeavor, right down to a chaotic curtain call in which the kids seem not sure just what to do — after which the show bursts back into life, venturing into the aisles to get the audience clapping along to the catchy hootenanny strains of “When you’re feeling pain/Say his name/There is no other/L. Ron Hubbard!” If some of the cast members come more easily to the rough-edged, hi-mom spontaneity, all navigate quite well the show’s clever course of enthused unsophistication.

There is a point to A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant, apart from just sending up Scientology by reducing its tenets to a childlike cataloguing of reactive-mind-banishing, past-pain-purging, positive-thinking pabulum doused with smily-faced song and dance. Jarrow says he does not find the belief system to be without merit. (Still, don’t be surprised if you hear there’s been a Scientology fatwa issued against the author/composer.) What seems to creep him out is the church’s cultish tendency to isolate its believers, replacing their individuality with passivity, slathering their need to ask difficult questions with a balm of easy answers. The pageant’s gang of kids, having graduated from what Hubbard calls “pre-clear” to “clear,” appear sporting masks of one another — as if they’d become interchangeable. Scientology may or may not do that to you. But Scientology Pageant definitely does not. Here are eight individual performing personalities marching rag-tag to a hilariously questionable tune.

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It is deplorable to use children to promote intolerance and bigotry. It was done by Nazi Germany and their barbarism was clear to everyone. That it is now somehow acceptable to ridicule people’s religion here in America is contemptible and offensive. And what does it teach these children? Certainly not the hard-learned lessons of tolerance that have been a cornerstone of our society. I suppose this is a great source of pride to the gleeful Mr. Jarrow and Mr. Timbers. And for this we can apparently thank the generous grants from The Krupp Family Foundation, Ann and Graham Gund, Janet and John Pattillo, Bank of America, Citizens Bank and Sovereign Bank. What enlightened people they must be! Who is next to be held up to mockery and disparagement for the simple crime of attempting to elevate and civilize the world. Shameful!

POSTED BY Observer AT 11/28/06 7:31 PM
Deplorable? Promote intolerance and bigotry? NAZI'S??? I have seen the members of scientology use this claim almost every single time any voice is raised against them. Sorry Observer, scientology is not trying to raise or evevate anyone unless they do it scientologys way. About bigotry, can you tell us how scientology treats critics? Or how about the tone scale and those who are 2. or below? If you can't why not check out and Those are sites where you can see the members of scientology ummmm elevateing people. There you can see how much tolerance they have. And you can read many court records and stories of those who were once members and now speak out. But please, also visit and get both sides. As for the bit about the grants. May I ask you what your point is?

POSTED BY Jerald AT 11/28/06 8:31 PM
The lessons of Nazi Germany have nothing to do with the rejection of Scientology. The reason Germany, Greece, Israel, and other countries reject it is that they do not support commercial enterprises or cults which practice healthcare fraud that masquerade as a religion. Scientology is dangerous. L Ron Hubbard was a paranoid, college dropout and criminal. Who would elevate such a nutcase to some sort of guru or hero?

POSTED BY NonScientologist AT 11/28/06 9:27 PM
Bigotry derived from ignorance is at least understandable when it doesn't reach violence. But asking children to memorize and recite religious bigotry is beneath contempt. Strident critics again stoop to untruths. There are three Scientology churches in Israel, dozens in Germany, and one in Athens.

POSTED BY Grad AT 11/29/06 2:15 AM
Sorry Grad, there are no scientoloogy churchs in israel, Germary or Athens, But there are scientology orgs as the goverments of these countries don't see scientology as a church but instead as a cult or a business. I think what is beneath contempt resorting to the name calling like calling critics bigots. Most critics are people who see the wrong in scientology and are brave enough to speak out. Many are ex members who were in scientology for 10 to 30 years. Why not go to and see and hear their stories??

POSTED BY Jerald AT 11/29/06 3:33 AM
I'm sorry Observer, but e-meters, billion-year contracts, body thetans, pseudo naval uniforms, David Miscavige.... How do you expect scientology NOT to be ridiculed??? That's the beauty of America. You have the right to believe in what you wish and whatever brings you comfort without the government beheading you or placing you in prison. I also have the right to mock those beliefs as I see fit without the fear of being beheaded or placed in prison. You then have the right to ignore my mockery (if your faith is strong enough that should be no problem). As for elevating and civilizing the world, please leave that up to our schools and universities and out of the hands of Mr. Hubbard.

POSTED BY Usrname AT 11/29/06 11:16 AM
Not to mention the fact that the Church of Scientology is more Nazi-like in their conduct and practices than some Neo Nazis. The Co$ is the one of the (if not THE) most intolerant groups around, and are brilliantly hypocritical about it. They expect nothing less than total, utter compliance from their members; free thought and free speech are forbidden, which is ridiculous because they claim to be able to improve one's mind and to improve one's communication abilities as well. Dissenters are subject to emotional abuse, physical labor, blackmail (they keep all of your darkest confessions on file!), excommunication and, in severe cases, the church's "Fair Game" policy (note: the chruch has officially revoked "declaring" someone as 'fair game', but has not revoked the practice of treating someone as such. And if it was EVER an allowable practice, doesn't that harm the credibility of the entire church?). They claim to fight for freedom and tolerance, but actively oppress their own members (or 'suppress' if you want to use their own lingo) by forbidding any contact with 'entheta' (anything that criticizes the church or its practices) or 'PTS's and 'SP's ('potential trouble source' and 'suppressive person, respectively, both of which refer to anyone critical of the church). They even install software on their members' computers to block websites that contain critical information! That is the opposite of free speech and thought! That is manipulation and oppressive!! The truly religious aspects of Scientology don't deserve to be mocked any more or less than any other religion (space planes and volcanoes provide just as much humorous ammunition as Jesus-crackers and talking elephants), but the practices of the Church of Scientology are HARMFUL and OPPRESSIVE. It regards non-members as worthless sacks of meat (see also: 'raw meat'), treats its members like bags of cash, and TRAINS its members to be jerks to the rest of its members. If you are part of the Church or are considering joining, PLEASE do some research about what being in Scientology is ACTUALLY like.

POSTED BY sweatpantsninja AT 11/29/06 4:49 PM
As a follow up to a previous comment, the German government (along with others) carefully reviewed the Co$ and concluded that it was totalitarian and because their constitution forbids such organizations, prohibited its setting up shop in Germany. The Church doesn't even fit the description for a Church which means a Christian house of worship. Secondly, these rabid, hate-filled liars, didn't even bother to notice the commonly known fact that 80% OF THE PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS ARE PRESCRIBED BY NON-PSYCHIATRISTS. The least qualified therapist out there has advanced degrees and thousands of supervised hours. Some Scientology auditor may have walked by the day before having seen the "now hiring" sign and they can do their nonsensical, and pointless hocus pocus science fiction. The down side of a free society is rampant violence due to accessibility to guns, and the tolerance of groups like Co$. Let it be known that humorously the word "Dianetics" was actually the title of one of LRH's science fiction works before it became "the modern science of mental health."

POSTED BY NonScientologist AT 11/29/06 10:52 PM

POSTED BY Observer AT 12/05/06 3:59 PM

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