Batavia Players presenting original musical 'The Christmas Gift' this weekend

Dec 8, 2016

For being a last minute pinch-hitter, Murphy McDermott hit all the right notes during Batavia Players' rehearsal Sunday afternoon.

The 13-year-old was tapped to fill in for an actor who was expected to be out sick for the show.

"I was thrown into it today," she said of her solo in "Mary, Did You Know?" "That's my favorite song; it's very pretty and I like the harmonies. The show is very quiet and calming, peaceful and warm."

Director Pat Burk writes a play every other year to celebrate Christmas. Aptly titled "The Christmas Gift," this year's work features 25 songs of the season and an equal cast of 25 children and adults. The unwrapping is at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. 15-17 at Harvester 56 Theater, 56 Harvester Ave.

Murphy, a soprano, didn't find her impromptu solo too difficult, as it fit her high vocals. "Going low" is more the challenge, she said. She has been singing since about the first grade and would like to pursue an acting and/or singing career some day.

Meanwhile she has enjoyed the atmosphere of a "really nice small theater" and great people to work with, she said.

"It's a very family-oriented, heartwarming show," she said. "If you're in the Christmas spirit you will enjoy it. Even if you're not."

Christmas gifts have been evolving for the show's angel, played by Emily Crawford. She and husband Derrick want them to be about more than a half-off sale at Macy's. Truly meaningful gifts are now homemade, sustainable, memorable, she said. Her favorite so far was last year's "writing box," with handmade paper, pens with real goose quills and black walnut ink.

"It was really time and love and consideration," she said. "We really want to make memories; it's not about materialism."

For Burk, it boils down to a good dose of the play's key line: "Kindness indeed is the perfect Christmas gift."

This two-act musical accompanied by Kathy White on piano began several years ago. That's when Burk and Alice Judkins were working on a Rotary production of "Cinderella" at Batavia High School. Judkins, a native southerner, noticed how people came together here. That prompted Burk to start writing about a village where everyone worked together despite backgrounds, social standings and culture.

"It doesn't matter where you're from. I wanted to bring a message of that," he said. "It seemed to be perfect for this year."

Fast forward to January 2016. Burk came upon his notes and thought about that talk with a good friend. This was the year to pull those segments of population together, at least in a play. It's an homage to Judkins, who died Dec. 20, 2009. It's a timeless moral that all should want to heed.

"That people's kindness, and loveliness, is not forgotten," he said.

Tickets are $13 for adults and $10 for students and seniors and are available through dailynewstickets.com or at the box office. For more information, go to bataviaplayers.org.

By Joanne Beck, Batavia Daily News