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‘Amahl,’ ‘Gift of the Magi’ hit Playhouse Merced stage



Fans of live theater can once again enjoy shows at Playhouse Merced on Dec. 9, 10, 11 and 12 when Amahl and the Night Visitors and The Gift of the Magi will be performed on the playhouse stage.

The two one-act plays have been dubbed “Radio Magi.” They are both set at “Radio WXMS” in New York City in the 1940s. The play-within-a-play format depicts actors performing the plays as live Christmas radio broadcasts.

Amahl and the Night Visitors, originally written by Gian Carlo Menotti as an operetta, is about an impoverished single mother and her disabled son, Amahl.

When three kings show up on their doorstep seeking shelter and telling them they are journeying to seek the Christ child, Amahl and his mother experience something miraculous.

While not being presented as an operetta, Amahl and the Night Visitors as well as The Gift of the Magi will include many musical interludes.

Eight-year-old Daniel Valle takes the title role in Amahl, with Wendy Carpenter playing his mother. The three kings are played by Colton Dennis, Phil Buckle and Rich Barnes. Buckle also plays the page and the shepherd. Candice Medefind plays the shepherdess and Marc Medefind is the narrator.

The classic O. Henry Christmas story, The Gift of the Magi, is about newlyweds Della and Jim Dillingham Young who are struggling to get by in New York City in the 1900s. They both want to get something exquisite for each other for Christmas. How they accomplish this provides the classic story of irony, sacrifice and love.

Marit Medefind plays Della, Colton Dennis plays Jim, Wendy Carpenter is Mrs. O’Riley, Candice Medefind plays Madame Sofronie and Marc Medefind again takes the role of narrator.

Marc Medefind, who adapted and directed A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play for the PHM stage two years ago, adapted the two “Radio Magi” plays and is taking a secondary directing role behind his daughter, Marit Medefind, who has taken the directorial reins. She directed shows for the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert and Sullivan Players during her undergraduate years.

Marit Medefind is also playing piano and leading the vocal ensemble that will sing carols placed appropriately throughout the plays. Buckle, Dennis, Carpenter and Candice Medefind will add their voices to the chorus.

One of the most entertaining parts of radio plays is the inclusion of Foley artists who use a huge variety of gadgets and everyday items to produce sound effects. For many years, Jenell and Rich Barnes have performed their amazing artistry in almost two dozen productions and will once again ply their magic for the “Radio Magi” plays.

“We have a tremendous amount of talent coming together on our ‘Radio Magi’ stage,” said Marc Medefind. “Seven of our performers have previously appeared in radio plays and all have appeared on stage dozens of times. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with this group of seasoned actors!”

Even Valle, who plays Amahl, has appeared in many local youth productions at Playhouse Merced. “During auditions, I knew we had our Amahl after he had read just two lines,” said Medefind. “For an eight-year-old, he’s got great stage presence!”

“We are also fortunate to have a marvelous group of performers who have agreed to take part or, in some cases, take parts,” said Medefind.

The Playhouse Merced Board of Directors gave the green light for the radio play after White Christmas was canceled due to COVID concerns. Because “Radio Magi” could be staged with a much smaller cast and much less movement on the stage, it was given the go-ahead. Audiences will still be required to follow COVID protocols, such as wearing masks.

Those who purchased tickets for White Christmas will be able to exchange their tickets to see the “Radio Magi” shows. Playhouse Merced also is offering free admission to those who bring an unwrapped Christmas gift to benefit Toys for Tots (see sidebar.)

The show will also feature commercial spoofs plus a surprise narration. Show times are at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 9, 10 and 11 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 12.

For ticket information, call Playhouse Merced, located at 452 W. Main, at (209) 725-8587.


Bring holiday gift, get free admission

Patrons who bring a new unwrapped gift to Playhouse Merced will receive free admission to the “Radio Magi” shows thanks to State Assembly Member Adam Gray.

Gray and Playhouse Merced are collaborating with the Fire and Kops for Kids Program to help provide Christmas gifts for needy children in the area. Gray is sponsoring the four shows and is donating $10 for each patron who donates a toy. Donated toys initially will become stage props and will be placed under the Christmas trees on the set before being disseminated throughout the community.

One donated new toy will equal one general admission ticket+

Every Christmas, the Merced Police Department and the Merced City Fire Department collect and distribute toys to the underprivileged children in our community. The program is open to families with children aged 12 and younger. Both departments gather new, unwrapped toys beginning in November and distribute them a week before Christmas.

The Department works with the community and is assisted by merchants in the collection of toys. This is a program that continues to grow each year benefiting many underprivileged children in Merced. This year, Playhouse Merced and Assembly Member Gray agreed to assist in the annual effort.

Tickets are first-come, first-served. Tickets will be available for sale/exchange for a ticket at the door, but to avoid waiting in line, please drop off the toy(s) and pick up your ticket(s) in advance of your preferred show. The PHM Box Office can be reached at (209) 725-8587. For further information about Fire and Kops for Kids, email Lt. Emily Foster at [email protected]

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