With the flood of Hallmark-style Christmas movies on the market, one might think that the formula for a holiday film has been overdone.
And perhaps it has.
However, “Kris Kringle The Musical,” which heads to Proctors on Saturday, strays from the formula and delves into an unusual topic for the holidays: forgiveness.
“That is the greatest gift that you can have at Christmas time,” said Maria Ciampi.
She’s the writer behind the musical and a practicing attorney. She was born on Christmas Day and has always felt a deep connection to the holiday.
“Ever since I was little, I was a storyteller,” Ciampi said during a recent interview with The Gazette. “I’ve been telling stories since I was little and that translated well to being a lawyer.”
Even while she worked as an attorney and a law professor, she wanted to do more with her storytelling. After enrolling in a writer’s boot camp program, the screenplay for “Kris Kringle” was born. It was pitched to a movie production company in 2002 but was turned down.
“So I had to put ‘Kris Kringle’ away for a while. [Then] my husband and I started our own law firm. I had literally put the script away in this bookcase and I found it in the process of moving,” Ciampi said.
When she uncovered it, a friend suggested she turn it into a musical, which sounded like a great idea, except Ciampi had no idea how to write music and she was by no means a theater expert. Not one to be easily deterred, she decided to embark on what’s become a ten-year journey, working with songwriters, as well as lighting and prop professionals, to create and recreate the production that’s playing at Proctors this weekend.
“I was patient and when I made mistakes, I still kept at it and I think that’s a very important thing.
“Along the way, the element that I didn’t expect is that in theater, you have to have collaborators. In my world, usually, you have an adversary, you don’t have a collaborator.
I had to not only see the story in my mind, but I had to work with other people who had skills that I did not have,” Ciampi said.
Though the show officially opened in 2015 in Ohio and had a run in Washington, D.C., and New York City, Ciampi and her team are always working on it and revamping it.
The production follows young Kris Kringle, who, after crossing paths with an evil toy company CEO, has to join together with Santa and Mrs. Claus and Evelyn Noel among others to save Christmas.
Songs like “Unwrap the Christmas Magic” and “My North Star” have become fan favorites over the years and have garnered international attention, according to Ciampi.
During the run at Proctors, even those who have seen the show before will get to see a few new tricks.
“This year, the major set-piece is a grand storybook. It’s 20 feet by 26 and we have a projectionist who’s done Broadway projections. Eve Plumb, our narrator, she’s going to be reading and we have children interacting with Eve. When she opens the storybook to read to the children, this grand storybook on stage will open with these beautiful projections that will be the sets for the story. Throughout the story, the projections will help to set the scenes and create a visual element of storytelling that we’ve never had before,” Ciampi said.
Plumb, who is known for her role as Jan Brady on “The Brady Bunch,” will star as Aunty Sugarplum. She’ll open the production by reading and interacting with kids, some of whom are from Niskayuna, Ballston Spa and other Capital Region communities.
While much of the production is lighthearted — and layered with lawyer jokes — it also carries a message about the importance of forgiveness, one that has made many viewers call friends and family members they have drifted away from.
“That has been the biggest thing that’s come back to me. People have written to me and said they’re going to go call their brother who they haven’t talked to [in years]. To me that’s the most wonderful part of it,” Ciampi said.
“If you love Christmas and you see the show, you’re going to love it even more. If Christmas has lost [its] luster for you, you’re going to fall in love with it again.”
“Kris Kringle: The Musical”
WHEN: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
MORE INFO: proctors.org