Saint Nick goes to trial in Fauquier Community Theatre’s ‘Miracle on 34th Street’

While a famous editorial in a 1897 edition of New York Sun asserts there really is a Santa Claus, the Fauquier Community Theatre’s production of â??Miracle on 34th Streetâ? is firmly on the fence.

In the 1947 movie of the same name, an indignant Kris Kringle, played by Edmund Gwenn, replaces the drunken Santa impersonator in Macyâ??s Thanksgiving Day parade. Gwenn eventually won the Oscar, the only one ever given to an actor playing Santa.

A grateful Macyâ??s hires him for the Christmas season. As Kris continues his employment with Macy’s, his desire to help parents find the perfect gift for their beloved children leads him to send them to other stores, most notably Macyâ??s arch rival, Gimbelâ??s. A furious administrator, Doris Walker, sends him away, but eventually his adoring public forces her to beg him to return. However, folks become uneasy when it becomes apparent that their cherished Santa actually believes he is The Real Thing. Rumors fly that Macyâ??s Santa is mentally ill and eventually Sawyer, a vocational guidance counselor, has Kris committed to Bellevue State Hospital.

A sympathetic attorney, Fred Gayley, fights to free Kris. The court case between Fred and the statesmen, J. Mara, heats up the frigid new York winter, and eventually the honorable judge makes a landmark decision, deciding Krisâ?? fate. The story left an indelible impression on audiences; the movie became a huge hit; and it remains a holiday classic.

The cast and crew of Fauquier Community Theatre’s â??Miracle on 34th Streetâ? hope to make a similarly memorable mark on the minds of their audience. Evelyn Rice, one of Warrenton’s prominent citizens and directors, is directing the show for the second time. She is assisted by Jeffrey Davies as assistant director and stage manager and set-constructionist Patrick Nye. Rice said, “The story of ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ is one of faith, love, and all of the best qualities this wonderful holiday season has to offer. The theme of ‘Miracle,’ to me, is that no matter where or who you are the magic of Christmas cannot be found in presents but with the love we share.”

The principle roles are played by James Masten as Kris Kringle, Sarah Akers as Doris Walker, Joshua Colliluori as Fred Gayley, and Carlee Spagnolo as Susan Walker. All the actors are FCT regulars, and over the years they have developed considerable chemistry and rapport with one another a factor in making the show seamlessly unwind.

Joshua Colliluori, a 24-year-old student at Northern Virginia Community College, plays attorney Fred Gayely. A veteran actor at FCT, his roles have included Motel in last yearâ??s â??Fiddler on the Roof,â? Demetrius in â??A Midsummer Nightâ??s Dream,â? and the Sultan in Aladdin, Jr. He also directed last seasonâ??s Nightfall With Edgar Allan Poe. He said, â??This show has been a wonderful opportunity for me to add a new chapter to my book of acting. Never before have I had the terrific chance to play a defense lawyer and a romantic interest all in the same show. I have had a wonderful time working with the likes of Krista, Ricardo, Bob, Greg, Sarah, Carlee, Mike, Jessica, Camilla, Charis, Elizabeth, and all of the rest. It’s been a wonderful honor.â?

Sarah Akers plays Fredâ??s romantic interest, Doris Walker. She said, â??I really enjoy playing Doris; she is a strong character and a strong woman. She is a single parent and has been really hurt, but learns to love again. It’s something many people, male and female, can relate to.â? Akers, a computer scientist and mother living in Culpeper, won FCTâ??s Lofty Award last year for her performance in One Flew Over the Cuckooâ??s Nest. â??I love the cast for this show. Everyone is fun loving and has a great attitude,â? she said. â??The children are all really exciting to have around and sharing a stage with, and Carlee, who plays Dorisâ?? daughter, Susan has been just great!â?

Nine-year-old Carlee Spagnolo (Susan) is a newcomer to FCT. “I tried out because I thought it would be fun: I like acting and my friends are in the show, too. When the director cast me, I couldnâ??t believe it. My character, Susan, doesnâ??t believe in Santa because her mom doesnâ??t, but then she meets Mr. Kringle and Mr. Gayley and she changes her mind. When I found out I was Susan, I was really happy; I couldnâ??t believe it,. I think everyone who likes Christmas will like it because itâ??s such a happy show.â?

Email the writer: lyonsconstance@gmail.com.

If you go:

What: Miracle on 34th Street
When: Dec. 19 and 20 at 8 p.m.; Dec. 21 at 2 p.m.
Where: Fauquier Community Theatre, 4225 Aiken Dr., Warrenton
Tickets: $20 for adults, $14 for seniors and children
For more info: www.FCTstage.org or (540) 349.8760.