, Newburyport, MA

December 19, 2013

The magic of Santa

Amesbury Children's Theatre makes its debut with 'Yes, Virginia'

By Mac Cerullo
Staff writer

---- — Many moons ago, a young girl named Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the New York Sun asking if there really is a Santa Claus. The response she received has become an enduring piece of Christmas lore.

This weekend, Amesbury Children’s Theatre will bring that story to life in its production of “Yes, Virginia The Musical,” which opens its run of four performances tomorrow evening at Sparhawk School.

“It’s about an 8-year-old who is struggling with the belief of Santa, and she writes to the New York Sun and asks if there is a Santa Claus, and the editor writes back,” program director Michelle Spadafora said.

The response, which ran in the Sun on Sept. 21, 1897, has become the most reprinted newspaper editorial in history. Macy’s put together the musical adaptation of the story last year as part of its “Believe” campaign. Over the past two years, the department store chain has offered it to schools and theater groups free of charge.

The Amesbury production features a cast of approximately 40 children. Graham Campbell, a sixth-grader at Inn Street Montessori School, said the cast has been working hard over the past month to bring a sense of holiday spirit to the performance.

“It’s actually been really fun,” said Graham, who plays Scraggly Santa. “It’s been great having it around the Christmas time, and everyone is so into it. Even if they’re newsboys or ensemble, everyone is so happy and excited, and I hope we can carry that energy through the run.”

“Yes, Virginia” is also Amesbury Children’s Theatre’s debut production as an independent entity. Spadafora previously ran a theater program through Amesbury Recreation, but after that program lost its funding, she reached out to Bethany Kolenda, a Suffolk University musical theater student who had worked with her for 10 years. The two decided to go out on their own.

“This is our very first show; we had over 40 kids audition and have been so fortunate,” Spadafora said. “The kids that we have are beyond talented. We have a great relationship with the Sparhawk School, they’ve helped us immensely, providing us with the space and whatever technical support we need.”

If you go

What: “Yes, Virginia The Musical”

When: Tomorrow at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Where: Sparhawk School theater, 196 Main St. (behind the former CVS building)

How much: $7 for children, $10 for adults, and $15 for a “golden ticket,” which includes table seating, refreshments and a visit from a surprise guest.

More information: 781-715-5486, or