Musical 'Yes, Virginia' based on newspaper editor's affirmation of the spirit of Santa Claus

November 28, 2012|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Laura Hurley plays Virginia and Will Bureau plays Scraggly Santa in the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts production of "Yes, Virginia, the Musical" this weekend.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

It was the start of a new school year in 1897 when friends of Virginia O’Hanlon told her the unthinkable: Santa Claus was a myth.

Unwilling to accept such a notion, the 8-year-old wrote a letter to The New York Sun with the simple inquiry: “Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?”

The letter was answered by veteran journalist Francis Pharcellus Church, who brightened the day of all true believers with the simple answer, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

It can be argued that no editorial has had such a lasting impact, despite being written in fewer than 500 words. Throughout the years, it has been translated into some 20 languages and has been the subject of numerous books.

Now, it’s the subject of a play, developed by Macy’s Department Stores Inc. for schools around the United States.

The show, “Yes, Virginia, the Musical,” is based on an animated television special, “Yes, Virginia,” that Macy’s has sponsored since 2009 as part of its Christmas advertising campaign that carries the theme “Believe.”

Macy’s is sharing the musical with schools through a website that offers free content such as downloadable scripts and scores, reference materials and tips.

The company also will not charge accredited schools royalties to perform the play.

That was a big selling point to Ruth Ridenour, drama and musical theater teacher with the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

But equally important was the fact that the story line couldn’t be more perfect for the Christmas season.

“I think it will get everyone into the holiday spirit,” she said.

The Barbara Ingram School for the Arts will present its 2012 Holiday Spectacular at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, and Sunday, Dec. 2, at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown.

Ridenour said this year’s show will be titled “Yes, Virginia ... and a Whole Lot More.” In addition to the musical, the second half of the program will include artistic performances by many of the school’s students.

Two of the lead roles in the musical will be 10th-graders Laura Hurley of Hagerstown as Virginia and Will Bureau of Frederick, Md., as Scraggly Santa.

Both students admitted they knew little about the story behind “Yes, Virginia” until they began reading the scripts.

“I was somewhat familiar,” Laura said. “But I really learned so much more after being cast as Virginia.”

Laura describes her character as “a little girl who is full of life and energy and wants to bring happiness to everyone she meets. She’s also so excited for Christmas. But she wonders if there is such a thing as Santa.”

“Scraggly Santa,” Will noted, “is an unfortunate man who has no home. But he does his best to bring joy to others.”

“He tries to be as nice as possible, which is something I can relate to,” Will said. “But it’s also the kind of role that allows me to bring my own creativity to the character.”

The students admit that a lot of work has gone into nightly rehearsals, “but it’s very exciting,” Laura said. “In the end, the hard work will all pay off.”

Laura said she always has loved to sing and dance.

“(B)ut the whole theater aspect developed in middle school. I love performing any opportunity I get. So I’m thrilled to be a part of this musical.”

Will performed in his first show when he was in the second grade and has been involved in theater ever since.

“It’s an interest that I’ve always had,” he said. “It’s something I really enjoy.”

Ridenour said the students have been excited about presenting the holiday show.

“(B)ut the closer it gets, the more hectic it gets for everyone,” she said. “Costumes, set designs, rehearsals — it gets a little nerve wracking. But, in the end, we know it’s all going to work.”

Ridenour said the musical, hopefully, will be a great way for people to kick off the Christmas season.

“But it’s also a great way to showcase the talents of the many students who attend Barbara Ingram School for the Arts,” she added.

If you go ...       

WHAT: “Yes, Virginia ... and a Whole Lot More,” Holiday Spectacular presented by the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts

WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, and Sunday, Dec. 2

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $10 to $25

CONTACT: Call The Maryland Theatre box office at 301-790-3500 Monday through Friday or go to

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