Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus
If you need any help finding your Christmas spirit, forget the La Salette Shrine, folks, because the reason to visit Attleboro this holiday season is Attleboro Community Theatre's tender, uplifting, must-see production of "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus."
Inspired by actual events and written by Andrew J. Fenady, "Yes, Virginia" tells the connected stories of James O'Hanlon (Brandon Harrington) and Frank P. Church (Kevin Fish), two men who aren't feeling especially celebratory or thankful, despite the upcoming yuletide season.
James desperately wants to provide for his wife, Evie (Kimmi Roche), and children, but can't find work, while Frank, a renowned writer for the daily periodical, The Sun, spends his days drinking as he mourns his wife who died in childbirth.
James and Frank are introduced by narrator, Edward P. Mitchell (Sandy Remington), editor of The Sun, who has known Frank since his heyday and hasn't yet lost faith in him. Little does Edward know that Frank's fellow reporter, Andrea Borland (Megan Ruggiero), is actually the author of his latest byline. Nevertheless, Edward thinks he may have the assignment that will finally bring Frank back from his melancholy black hole.
Said assignment is courtesy of Virginia (Emma Yutz), daughter of James, who one night asks her dad, after receiving conflicting information from her friends, "Is there a Santa Claus?" Feeling discouraged over his lack of employment prospects, James is hesitant to answer affirmatively, so he advises Virginia to write to The Sun, because if it appears in print, then it has to be true.
Jeanne Smith deserves tremendous praise and thanks for directing this lesser-known gem that will renew even the worst cynic's faith in family, the holiday season, and above all, the immeasurable influence and significance of a child's imagination. Furthermore, I applaud ACT for providing an especially touching alternative to the traditional stage offerings of the season.
The cast is chock full of impressive performances, especially Remington, perfectly poised as the intervening, illustrative narrator Edward, and Harrington, earnest and amiable (with a spot-on Irish accent) as the dutiful, dignified James.
Fish honorably and understatedly portrays the tormented Frank, and Roche is equally eloquent and impassioned as James' upstanding wife, Evie. Ruggiero is astute (and alluring, as well) as the concerned, compassionate Andrea, and the adorable, genial Emma Yutz deserves special mention -- among an ensemble of talented children -- in the titular role.
I honestly cannot recall the last time a holiday-themed production left me feeling so inspired or enlightened. Perhaps because the "Yes, Virginia" characters and their stories are so recognizable, so therefore, the outcome is all the more gratifying and magical.
"Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" runs through Dec. 20 at Attleboro Community Theatre, 71 North Main Street in Attleboro, MA. For information or tickets, call 508-226-8100 or visit www.attleborocomunitytheatre.com.