A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant
“Any religion that isn’t 5,000 years old is a cult,” says self-flagellating Jew Louis Ironson in Angels in America, adding, “And I know some people who would call that generous.” The favor, then, that Jarrow’s joyously humanizing, hour-long Scientology Pageant does for acolytes of publishing rock star L. Ron Hubbard is cast them in the absurd, timeless and affectionate mold shared by faiths of every stripe: adults dressing their kids in robes and directing them to act out fables that affirm their beliefs.
Performed by ten guileless, enthusiastic and mostly unsmug preteens, Jarrow’s hysterical send-up of the orthodoxy practiced by TomKat and Kirstie Alley (who, naturally, make appearances) is a ticklish breeze to watch. Simple narration and Up with People–ish tunes guide us through Hubbard’s journey from Eagle Scout to Eastern Hemisphere tourist to pop-science theorist, played out with the same beaming glee one might expect from both a megachurch’s children’s spectacular and the truncated, unvetted history you’d get in a second-grade re-creation of the Mayflower landing. (All ten tykes are great, but lest they grow into lonely, susceptible celebrities, we won’t single one out.)
The only fair gripe is that the creator’s satirical agenda can override the integrity of his premise. Some of the humor feels more like an ironic Threadless T-shirt placed by a hipster parent on an unwitting baby than the authentic ennui of, say, the Peanuts kids. But this weird treat still deserves, at the very least, a cult following.