Cary Players’ “Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus” Is a Live Radio Play

Bob Grannan, Rita Dimoulas, and Geoff Zieman perform in "Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" (photo by Stuart T. Wagner)
Bob Grannan, Rita Dimoulas, and Geoff Zieman perform in "Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" (photo by Stuart T. Wagner)

Bob Grannan, Rita Dimoulas, and Geoff Zieman perform in "Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" (photo by Stuart T. Wagner)
Bob Grannan, Rita Dimoulas, and Geoff Zieman perform in "Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" (photo by Stuart T. Wagner)

The Cary Players will present a community-theater production of Yes Virginia, There Really Is a Santa Claus, which is billed as a live 1940s-style radio play, on Dec. 3-6 in the Cary Town Council Chambers. According to Dramatic Publishing, playwright Andrew J. Fenady based Yes Virginia upon his and Val de Crowl’s teleplay for a 1991 television movie-of-the-week directed by Charles Jarrott and starring Richard Thomas, Katharine Isabelle, Charles Bronson, and Ed Asner.

“Radio dramas are a pretty cool way to make the most of out of unconventional theater spaces!” claims Cary Players director Debra Zumbach Grannan. “Cary Players enjoyed much success with our productions of It’s a Wonderful Life over the past two years … but this year we wanted to try a new script for some variety.”

She adds, “I just love stories with happy endings! Yes Virginia has a message of hope … and the script had a wide range of ages for the cast too! That’s always a plus for community theater! …

Yes, Virginia is based, in part, on the true story of a young girl in New York City in the late 1800s who questions the existence of Santa Claus,” explains Debra Grannan. “It is also the story of a heartbroken newspaperman, Frank Church (played by Geoff Zieman), whose career and faith in humanity are threatened.

“Virginia (Alexandra Merz) watches as her father James O’Hanlon (Jeff Nugent) faces tough financial times,” says Grannan, “and her best friend Maria (Rachel Huffman) fears for the health of her sick mother.

“[After] Virginia sends a letter to Edward Mitchell (Mark Mickunas) the editor of the New York Sun, asking if there is a Santa Claus[, t]he poetic response she receives [from] reporter Frank Church is now a famous letter that captures the true spirit of Christmas.”

Debra Grannan notes, “As Edward Mitchell, Mark Mickunas narrates much of the story. Virginia’s mother Evie (Gale Robinson) is a consistently positive voice of hope. Little brother Sean (Jayce Kelly) represents pure innocence. There is an interesting subplot as an eager, young female reporter Andrea Borland (Rita Dimoulas) tries to save Frank Church and an evil competing newspaperman, Cornelius Barrington (Bob Grannan), attempts to bring him down.

“Teddy the copyboy (Nate Sepic), Mr. Schuler the mailman (Jerry Zieman), Otho the Norwegian Bartender (Tracy Fulghum), Mrs. Goldstien the kindly neighbor (Sonia Usatch-Kun), the paperboy (Benjamin Nicholas), and Virginia’s friends (Chloe Simon and Delany Sisiruka) all add colorful enhancements to the story line. Actors Pat Berry, Joel Horton, Jack Berry, Mark Anderson, and Tracy Fulghum move between a variety of roles and accents.”

In addition to director Debra Grannan, the Cary Players creative team for Yes Virginia includes music director Craig Johnson; technical director Tracy Fulghum; set designer Jon Dietz; costume designer LeGrande Smith; Foley artists Pam Smith, Patty Kelley, and Jon Dietz; and stage manager Carole Kelly. This Cary Players presentation also features original music and lyrics by Debra Grannan and Craig Johnson.

Grannan says, “Throughout the show, Foley artists Pam Smith, Patty Kelley, and Jon Dietz work their magic with old-fashioned hand props and sound effect equipment. In-between scenes, a series of old-fashioned radio jingles, led by music director Craig Johnson, add a touch of humor to the evening.

“Radio singers Jeri McKee, Jordan Blais, Bonnie Roe, Joanna Herath, Matthew Harvey, and Megan Woronka perform original works featuring Cary merchants. Opening songs featuring Mary Anne Serino, Patrick Harvey, and the radio singers set the mood for a full evening of entertainment,” Grannan points out.”

Debra Grannan claims, Soon, yes very soon, Cary Players will be performing on a traditional stage … with wings, curtain, dressing rooms, lights, etc. In the meantime, the production team thanks the cast and crew for adjusting to numerous rehearsal spaces all over town!”

She notes, “The elegant sophistication of the Cary Town Council Chambers sets the right mood for this play. Tracy Fulghum and Jeff Nugent have teamed up to create authentic-looking microphones. Jon Dietz has hand-crafted a number of old-fashioned looking sound-effect items, such as a wind machine. Add some holiday decorations, and chambers will be transformed in to a festive-looking radio studio!

“[Costume designer] LeGrande Smith’s attention to detail has transformed the cast to have the look of 1940s radio stars!” says Grannan. “Seamed hose and some red nail polish on the gals and a bright vest or bow-tie on the fellows — all … help transport the audience to the Golden Age of Radio.”

She adds, “Watch for that ‘On the Air’ sign! That’s about the extent of our lighting design … but it is effective!”

The Cary Players present YES VIRGINIA, THERE REALLY IS A SANTA CLAUS: A LIVE RADIO PLAY at 8 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4, 3 p.m. Dec. 5, and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6 in the Cary Town Council Chambers, 316 N. Academy St., Cary, North Carolina 27513.

TICKETS: $12 in advance ($8 for children 12 and under) and $15 at the door, except $7 Dec. 6th performance in honor of veterans and all military men and women.

BOX OFFICE: 800/745-3000, 919/834-4000, or




NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh ( will audio describe the 3 p.m. Dec. 5th performance.


The Play: (Dramatic Publishing).

The Playwright: (Dramatic Publishing).

The TV Movie: (Internet Movie Database).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).