WANT TO GO?
"Miracle on 34th Street."
WHERE: Alban Arts Center, 65 Olde Main St., St. Albans
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Dec. 14-15, 2 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 16
TICKETS: Adults $15, seniors and children under 12 $10.
INFO: 304-721-8896 or www.albanartscenter.com
CHARLESTON, W.Va. --When the Alban Arts Center wanted a Santa Claus for its production of "Miracle on 34th Street" that opens Friday, it went with a ringer: John Johnson, the official Santa Claus for St. Albans.
"I feel very honored to be part of the play and get the chance to follow in the big footsteps of Edmund Gwenn," said Johnson, sounding especially jolly.
Gwenn starred in the 1947 holiday film classic and, according to Johnson, helped set the standard for what a movie Santa Claus is supposed to be.
"He's an icon," Johnson said, and he would know. As far as local experts on all things Santa Claus go, Johnson might be it.
Outside his day job with HealthSmart Solutions and his bluegrass band, Hominy Falls, the 35-year-old St. Albans native lives and breathes Santa Claus. The beard is real. The belly is real. And when Johnson's not portraying Jolly Old Saint Nick, he's studying Santa lore, attending Santa Claus gatherings and even taking classes at Santa School.
"You have to keep up on the skills," he chuckled.
And what do you learn at Santa School?
"You learn to move. You learn how to hee-hee and ho-ho. We don't usually make any toys -that's been outsourced," he joked. "They teach you everything from the business of being Santa to maintaining the Santa look."