By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – Christmas came a bit early for Saltillo Elementary School students this year.
Macy’s gave $1,000 grants to 100 schools across the country to present “Yes, Virginia The Musical,” and Saltillo Elementary is one of the recipients. The show is slated for this weekend, with the fourth-graders performing on Friday night and the fifth-graders performing on Saturday afternoon.
“Our principal noticed there was a grant to put on the musical, and within a day or two we heard we had it,” said Dianne Ludt, a staff volunteer who’s teaching drama at Saltillo Elementary and directing the play. “We have 150 kids in each. We had to double cast.”
That’s a surprise for Ludt and the school, since this is the first year for a drama program at the school. But the kids are having fun, she said, telling the true story of 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, who wrote a letter to the New York Sun newspaper in 1897, asking if Santa Claus was real. Macy’s is providing the musical’s materials to the schools royalty-free, too, in celebration of the fifth anniversary of Macy’s holiday “Believe” campaign.
“The music is great. The kids love it,” Ludt said.
Saltillo Elementary Assistant Principal Michael Coggins said he’s seen the kids flourish in the drama program. Support from the community and volunteers like Ludt help the kids succeed, he said.
“(Ludt) ties it to academics, so it’s really working,” he said. “We have kids that are so talented.”
Two fifth-graders in “Yes Virginia” are 10-year-olds Hardy Smith, who stars as Virginia, and Charlie Koehn, who stars as Scraggly Santa, a guy who’s lost his job and is down on his luck.
“My favorite part is when I’m writing the letter,” Hardy said about playing Virginia.
For Charlie, he’s learning how to dance, and he’s having fun.
“My favorite part is where I’m singing and dancing with my pigeons,” he said. “We have people in costumes and they dance around me.”
The kids are getting into the magic of “Yes, Virginia.”
“If your friends don’t believe in Santa,” Charlie said, “this would influence them to believe.”
“Yes, Virginia The Musical” cast:
Kierdith Wilkins and Anna Mims (Miriam the Librarian); Lily Cate King and Miracle Rutherford (Librarian Assistant); Madison and McKenzie Jones and Charlie Koehn (Scraggly Santa); Magdalene Valentine and Neely Rial (Mr. Church); Reese Conwill and Drew Lesley (Ollie); Autumn McHenry and Hardy Smith (Virginia); Brenna Smith and Lexi Douglas (Charlotte); Landyn McGill and Lilly McElhaney (Jolly Gentleman); Madson Hall and Sydney Duggar (Mrs. Whiskers); Lydia McKissick, Ainsley Ryan, Emma Taylor Beane, Lexi Sullivan, Meri Parker Pigot, Ella Pittman, Marley Pigot, Katelyn Brooks (Dancing pigeons); Ethan Turner, Rudy Baldwyn, Morgan Hall, Elliana Parker, Amanda Johnson, Bradley McBrayer, Trinity Bullard, Hadley Taylor (Around the World Santas); Sarah Dulaney, Erin Hamblin, Katelyn Robbins, Alyssa Pankow, Rylea Parker, greta Wade, Jaiden Hutson, Lakin Baxter, Brianna Underwood (Singing books); Kailee Byrd, Riley Kate Fair, Abby Grace Long, Emily Wallis, Anna Gregory (Library Patrons); Bradley McBrayer, Trinity Bullard, Abby Grace Long, Kailee Byrd, Emily Wallis, Amanda Johnson, Anna Gregory, Morgan Hall, Emily Rose Neal, Hannah Gassaway, Ally Carnathan, Schyler Gondolfo, Madison Grammar, Kaden Hendrix, Callie Heser, Eden Hinds, Maggie Howard, Lilly McCully, Cloe Samples, Jodee Sandberg, Callie Timmons, Kailey Weeks, Adiah Mason, Ella Parker, Hadley Taylor (City Dwellers/Street Vendors); Seth Clark and Melody Prather (backstage crew)
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” cast:
Carson McClung, Connor Hinton, Brice Stone, Ayden Crumby, Christian Gladney, Connor McHenry (Grinches); Griffin McCormick, Max Arcand, Carlin Rawson, Chandler Howell, Whitney Grimes, Evan McCarthy (Narrators); Kylee Ellward (Cindy-Lou Who); Claudia Evans, Lyza McMillan, Alayna Mitchell, Alex Harris, Novalie Moon, Abby Patterson, Kimberly Starns, Brice Stone, Ayden Crumby, Tiffany Worthey, Max Arcand, Griffin McCormick, April Carpenter, Cohen Haire, Caleb Haire, Gracie Holcomb, Natalie McKinney, Lillie Palmer, Abby Patterson, Ruth Allison White, Bailey Robinson, Americus Plunkett, Connor McHenry, Christian Gladney, Chandler Howell, Evan McCarthy, Cece Hill, Emma Hankins, Kelsea George, Carlin Rawson, Whitney Grimes, Sydney Bell, Katelyn Pace, Connor Hinton, Carson McClung, Hailey Holland (Whos)