Christmas play helps give back to comedian’s cause

PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) — Ant’ny Claus 2 will make you laugh, but the face behind the foundation it’s raising money for might make you cry.

There’s nothing serious about Frank O’Donnell’s latest production about Santa’s younger brother, whether it’s the snowman who narrates or the guy in the refrigerator.

“The refrigerator came from the island of misfit appliances,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell’s been making local audiences laugh for 35 years. So, it was no surprise when the acting bug bit his youngest daughter, Keri.

“She really loved it,” O’Donnell said. “She sang, danced, acted. She was wonderful up there.”

Keri Anne O’Donnell’s life ended at 15 when the mini-van she was riding in blew a tire and flipped over on I-95 in Richmond in July of 2010.

“You never know what’s going to trigger it,” O’Donnell said, referring to memories about his daughter. “A song on the radio. Seeing something that one of her friend is doing and we know that she’s not going to be able to do that.”

And glitter.

“She loved glitter,” O’Donnell said.

A reminder that Keri is still very much a part her family’s life came as three recent finalists for the Keri Anne O’Donnell Memorial Scholarship were being reviewed.

A speck might’ve pushed a particular applicant over the top.

“She was in our top three anyway,” O’Donnell said. “And then there’s a green piece of glitter on her application and I said that’s the kid.”

O’Donnell, who wrote the Ant’ny Claus series and is directing the current episode, said the scholarship recipients often remind him of his youngest.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re a young girl or a boy,” he said. “It really is amazing when we see these kids because we’re seeing her. Something good came out of something really, really bad.”

Ant’ny Claus 2: A Dysfunctional Family Sequel runs on December 2, 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11 at Academy Players theater in Providence. The play is also raising money for the scholarship fund and The Village for Rhode Island Foster and Adoptive Families.

Tony Petrarca and Mike Montecalvo are among the local celebrities who will make cameo appearances in the play.  

Send your story ideas to Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow us on Twitter:@StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.