"Yes Virginia - The Musical" at On Stage Productions - a review by Melissa Swick Ellington


The On Stage Productions performance of Yes, Virginia The Musical offers plenty of heartfelt holiday spirit.  Drawn from an animated television special, the stage musical (with music by Wesley Whatley, lyrics by William Schermerhorn, and book adapted by William Schermerhorn from the animated special and storybook by Chris Plehal) has been developed by Macy’s as a performance opportunity for young people.

the cast of "Yes Virginia - The Musical" at On Stage Productions; photo by Rob Sprankle

Based on a true story, the action unfolds during the year 1897 in New York City. Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon questions whether Santa Claus is real. The search for truth takes her to the library as well as through the holiday bustle in the city, where Virginia encounters a bell-ringing “scraggly Santa” who reveals gifts for friendship and wisdom. Since she has been told “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so,” Virginia writes a letter to The New York Sun, asking “Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?” While the answer to her query is well known, the journey to that answer provokes curiosity.

Olivia (L) and Liberty Broussard as

Highlights of the performance feature the lovely singing voice of Liberty Broussard as Virginia, the clever timing of Rachael Sprankle as the whimsical Librarian, and the dynamic exuberance of Olivia Lesniak as Virginia’s best friend. Zach Tenney as Scraggly Santa exudes strong stage presence and communicates believable character development. JoJo Wallace conveys the mean girl role of Charlotte with vigorous energy, supported by her snooty cat Mrs. Whiskers (Mia Coats). Sincerity and sweetness emanate from the entire cast, particularly in the closing reprise of the title song. Additional cast members include Ella Johnson, Grace Beasley, Emma Cathryn Eubanks, Pierce Mejias, Perry Raines, Zavery Johnson, Paul Woodard, Heyward Moak, Cameron Eubanks, Turner Carson, and Major McCarty. The capable and dedicated production team includes Robert Harrelson (Director), Ryan Rogers (Youth Director), Rebekah Cheatham (Youth Choreographer),

Rachael Sprankle as Miriam the Librarian;  photo by Rob Sprankle


Michelle Cheatham (Choreographer Coordinator), Debi Young (Rehearsal Music Coach), Brandon Moore (Stage Manager), and Tony Vaccaro (Stage Design and Props). April Wallace and Gina Moak Cotton designed costumes, Harrelson and Rogers planned lighting and sound, and Jill Larkin and Niane Szalwinski shared producer responsibilities. Production design establishes numerous locations effectively, such as Virginia’s home, the Sun office, the library, and the streets of New York City. Projections of images featuring different Santas from around the world emerge in the library sequence. Younger viewers will benefit from front row seats, as the audience arrangement can obstruct the view of little ones. The intimate performance space creates a cozy and welcoming environment; carol-singing and piano-playing plus a hot chocolate “bar” (and the delectable dessert offerings for sale) make intermission feel like a friendly holiday party.

JoJo Wallace (R) as mean girl Charlotte, and Mia Coates as her snooty cat; photo by Rob Sprankle

The focus on youth engagement at On Stage Productions is commendable, as evidenced by inclusion of the student directing intern in the opening remarks, and the production’s involvement of an eleven-year-old choreographer. The young actors appear comfortable and confident on stage. The audience’s enjoyment of the performance is buoyed by the children’s delight in performing. (My six-year-old daughter confided after the first act, “Mommy, this seems like a GREAT place to be in a play!”) The earnest ensemble entreats in song: “Believe in joy. Believe in love. Believe your whole life through. Keep bright the light of childhood.” The light of childhood shines brightly at On Stage Productions this holiday season.

Want to learn more about the script and score? The website yesvirginiathemusical.com provides production resources which will delight young theatre artists. Interested in attending the On Stage performance? Visit www.onstagesc.com for tickets and further information. Yes, Virginia The Musical will be presented at the On Stage Performance Center (680 Cherokee Lane in West Columbia) at 7:30 pm on December 7, 12, 13, and 14, and at 2:30 pm on December 7, 8, 14, and 15.

~ Melissa Swick Ellington