Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Geoff Morrise and Vicki Felt, standing at left, portray Joseph and Mary as the members of the Provo South LDS Stake present a live Nativity pageant at the Provo Tabernacle Thursday. The event continues tonight with shows at 6:30, 7 and 7:30.

PROVO — Little 4-year-old Kylee Mortensen hopped off the cold bale of hay she had been sitting on and eagerly ran to the front of a small audience to get a closer peek at an infant doll of Jesus Thursday night during the live Nativity pageant on the soggy wet lawn of the Provo Tabernacle.

Her mother, Teresa Mortensen, 25, didn't hold her back.

"Baby Jesus is my favorite part," the child later whispered to her mom.

Eighty-five actors and stagehands from Provo's South Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came together in "last-minute" fashion to keep a decade-old tradition alive at 100 S. University Avenue.

"We don't call them practices," said the production director Dana Thelin about preparation for the 20-minute show. "We call them get-togethers, and most didn't even do that. Some just showed up and were handed an extra costume."

But the production went at least well enough to keep an audience of 40-plus in their waterlogged hay-bale seats listening to a muffled narration through large crackling speakers in hat-and-glove weather.

Real-life engaged couple Vicke Felt and Geoff Morrisa accepted an invitation to play Mary and Joseph.

"This will be memorable Christmas for us," Felt said. "We can play pretend for when we really get married."

The crew staged three separate performances Thursday night, but much of the action fell between acts.

Marley Snow, 10, talked about preparing for her part as a townsperson in advance.

"I read about the Nativity in the scriptures," she said. "In the Bible." When questioned where she read it in the bulky book, she bit her lip, swung around to a throng of her surrounding girlfriends and gave them a look of desperation.

"Where it talks about Jesus, duhh," the girls shouted in unison.

The girls were suddenly run off by a cluster of 12-year-old boys who disguised their flirtations by jabbing at the girls with their shepherd staffs.

"Shhhhhh," church leaders pleaded backstage. "Where is the rest of your costume?" another leader asked, exasperated.

The music started again and spotlights lit up for the night's third and final show.

"Let's go," Thelin said putting her arms around two kids guiding them back to the fold of actors. "Just like we practiced."

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