The worst thing that could be said about the Cary Players’ Dec. 3-6 community-theater production of Andrew J. Fenady’s live 1940s-style radio drama, Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus, is that its run was far too brief. The radio plays that the Cary community theater performs in the Cary Town Council Chambers at Christmastime are a highly enjoyable change-of-pace, even if the preshow and post-intermission songfest and the custom-written radio advertising jingles are uneven in quality.
Sixth grader Alexandra Merz gave a personable performance in the title role of eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, discouraged daughter of out-of-work and increasingly desperate Irish immigrant James O’Hanlon (Jeff Nugent). In a mean old world, especially inhospitable to immigrants then as now, Virginia needed not only her belief in Santa Claus — but her faith in humanity — restored. But sozzled one-time star New York Sun reporter Francis P. “Frank” Church (Geoff Zieman) hardly seemed up to the task, as day after day he drowned his bottomless sorrow over his wife’s untimely death in an ocean of alcohol.
Nugent’s plucky portrait of James O’Hanlon and Zieman’s poignant portrayal of Frank Church deserve kudos, and so does Mark Mickunas’ gritty performance as Church’s crusty editor Edward P. Mitchell, whose faith in Church is rewarded in 1897, when the former American Civil War correspondent-turned-editorial writer’s beautifully written response to Virginia O’Hanlon’s sweet letter strikes a chord not only with the readers of the New York Sun, but with readers of sister newspapers across the nation and around the world.
A strong supporting cast included Jerry Zieman in the dual roles of a Thief and Mr. Schuler the mailman, Rita Dimoulas as young female reporter Andrea Borland, Bob Grannan as rival reporter Cornelius Barrington, and Gale Robinson as Virginia’s mother Evie.
Director Debra Zumbach Grannan; music director and accompanist Craig Johnson; costume designer LeGrande Smith; and Foley artists Pam Smith, Patty Kelley, and Jon Dietz also deserve their own round of applause for their help in making this Cary Players presentation of Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus tug at the audience’s heartstrings.
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 7th Raleigh, NC Classical Voice of North Carolina review by John W. Lambert: http://cvnc.org/reviews/2010/122010/CaryPlayers.html; Dec. 6th Triangle Arts & Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2010/12/the-cary-players-put-on-the-perfect-christmas-show/; and Dec. 5th The Cary News preview by Andrew Kenney: http://www.carynews.com/2010/12/04/23923/cary-players-use-sound-artists.html. (To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Dec. 4th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2010/12/cary-players-yes-virginia-there-is-a-santa-claus-is-a-live-radio-play/.)
The Play: http://www.dramaticpublishing.com/product_info.php?products_id=1753 (Dramatic Publishing).
The Playwright: http://www.dramaticpublishing.com/AuthorBio.php?titlelink=9304 (Dramatic Publishing).
The TV Movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103305/ (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.
To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.
To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.