YES, VIRGINIA: Eric Shelton, center, playing “Mr. Church” the newspaper editor, sings in “Yes, Virginia the Musical,” while Jayla Lee, from right, Emma Cammack, Madison Thorton, Aubree McKay, Rachel Klinger, Rachel LaCasse, Rachael Hoffman, Adrianna Hart and Bailee Schmidt dance and sing as News Kids characters. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
YES, VIRGINIA: Eric Shelton, center, playing “Mr. Church” the newspaper editor, sings in “Yes, Virginia the Musical,” while Jayla Lee, from right, Emma Cammack, Madison Thorton, Aubree McKay, Rachel Klinger, Rachel LaCasse, Rachael Hoffman, Adrianna Hart and Bailee Schmidt dance and sing as News Kids characters. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
The classic holiday story of a little girl's quest to find out the truth about Santa Claus comes to Madison in a debut musical performance made possible by a grant given to only 100 schools nationwide.

"Yes, Virginia the Musical" was created for schools by Macy's Department Store this year to go along with the holiday movie "Yes, Virginia," which the store has sponsored each year since 2009. Macy's made the scripts and scores for the play available to any school in the country online, but awarded $1,000 grants to 100 school theater programs across the U.S. to help increase participation in the arts.

Nicole LeGrand, an elementary music teacher with Madison Consolidated Schools, said she read about the available grants online and applied. She received notification in October that the grant had been approved for E.O. Muncie Elementary.

The production, which consists of multiple dance and musical numbers, includes almost 35 third- through fifth-grade actors who had to memorize the 57-page script.

"It's just like a high school (theater) production," LeGrand said.

The elementary school production will take place in the high school's Opal E. Sherman Auditorium and include full sets, costumes and choreography for dance routines.

The musical production follows the classic holiday story of 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon who asks the New York Sun in her 1897 letter, "Is there a Santa Claus?"

"Basically a bully tells (Virginia) there's no Santa Claus," LeGrand said, which leads the girl to wonder if a friend or the bully is right.

The story of Virginia's quest for truth has been told over and over throughout the years in books, movies and the well-known newspaper column, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus," by New York Sun editor Francis Pharcellus Church, but this holiday season will be the first time the musical comes to life on stage.

"I was really concerned in the beginning," LeGrand said. "We don't use the school day (for practices)."

The limited practice time didn't seem to be a problem for the young actors though, she said, because everyone memorized their lines and choreography - mostly at home - to be ready for the performance.

"There are some kids who are going to sing by themselves for the first time in front of an audience (during the performance)," she said. "They're going to do great."

Parents have also been supportive of helping with memorization, transportation and other aspects of the play - including several hours of volunteering to build the sets.

Two schools in the Madison Consolidated Schools district received the $1,000 grants from Macy's to help with production costs, including E.O. Muncie Elementary and Deputy Elementary. Only three schools in Indiana received the grants and chose to participate in the production.

A production featuring students from E.O. Muncie Elementary, Rykers' Ridge Elementary and Lydia Middleton Elementary schools will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Madison Consolidated High School auditorium, 734 Clifty Drive.

Other productions of "Yes, Virginia the Musical," will be held at Deputy Elementary School, 14350 W. Mulberry St., at 1 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Wednesday. The play will feature third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students, as well as a few first- and second- grade students.

All of the performances of "Yes, Virginia the Musical" are free and open to the public.

"They took ownership in (the production)," LeGrand said of the students. "They're so excited about it."