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Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist…
-Francis Church, The New York Sun, Sepetember 21, 1897
Twin City Stage’s production of Macy’s Yes, Virginia: The Musical is the pinnacle of holiday endearment and delight with a spirited message.
Based on true events, the story chronicles eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon as she questions the existence of Santa Claus during the year 1897 in New York City. As she grapples with her curiosity and sets out on a quest for the truth, she encounters many characters willing to offer their contradictory opinions on the topic. Some, such as the local librarian and the “scraggly Santa” ringing his bell on the street, offer wisdom and reinforce the validity of Santa, while others, such as nine-year-old Charlotte and her sassy cat, mock Virginia and deem the belief in Santa to be “baby stuff.”
Yet still lacking the substantial evidence required to know the answer for sure, Virginia decides to write a letter to the New York Sun asking, “Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?” Having been taught, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” The well-known response to her query is a Christmas miracle for all.
Emmy Award-winners Bill Schermerhorn (playwright and lyricist) and Wesley Whatley (music composer) partnered with Twin City Stage to expand their show from a 45-minute musical made specifically for schools into a full-length production ideal for main stage community theatres. The collaboration resulted in fleshing out many of the adult characters’ storylines, as well as enriching the score with new musical numbers.
The heartfelt cast consists of energetic actors of varying ages. Vivian Waye was perfectly charming as the inquisitive young Virginia, and showcased her lovely voice in the selections “My Scrapbook” and “Baby Stuff.” Paul Gunter delivered a particularly noteworthy performance as Virginia’s best friend, Ollie. Gunter’s delivery of the song “Ollie’s Observation” was especially moving, as was the song “Childhood Dreams,” sung by Brandon Lloyd Hicks as Mr. Church. The ensemble shone brightly in numbers such as “Spending Christmastime with You” equipped with a dance break with tapping pigeons, and of course in the award winning number “Yes, Virginia (There’s A Santa Claus).”
Justin Hall’s costume design and Justin Glinn’s scenic/lighting design were simplistically effective in creating the festive world of New York City circa the close of the 19th century. From the Gibson Girl-style wigs and bird frocks, to the three standard set pieces representing the O’Hanlon home, library, and newspaper stand, the visuals of the play were supportive of the story without being gratuitous.
Francis Church’s editorial response to Virginia’s letter continues to impact generations of holiday doubters. In 2008 Macy’s department store credited the essay as the sole inspiration for the annual holiday “Believe” campaign that supports Make-A-Wish. Twin City Stage’s Yes, Virginia: The Musical propels the magical torch of the O’Hanlon/ Church exchange and lights the hearts of audiences this holiday season. For just as Church points out, “Yes, Virginia…How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.”
Yes, Virginia: The Musical continues through Sunday, December 21. For more details on this production please view the sidebar.