TROY — The Hallmark Channel will premiere a two-hour film Saturday, Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. based on a Christmas-themed mock trial originally staged in Troy’s historic courthouse.
“Twas the Night Before Christmas” stars Torrey DeVitto, best known for her six-season run on NBC’s “Chicago Med,” and Zane Holtz, a recurring cast member in the CBS’ crime thriller “NCIS.”
Filmed in Ottawa this fall, the movie is set in Troy and is inspired by “The Trial Before Christmas,” created by Troy authors Duncan Crary and Jack Casey.
Madison (DeVitto) is an actress looking to broaden her career and hopes that directing an annual Christmas play in Troy, N.Y. will give her a perfect chance to prove her skills.
Part play, part mock trial, the show features two lawyers arguing whether “A Visit from Saint Nick” was authored by Clement Clark Moore or Henry Livingston Jr. and has the audience decide as the jury.
Madison casts an old costar, Connor (Holtz), who is struggling to balance time for acting and his young daughter, Josie. Despite feeling a spark with Connor, Madison has a rule to never date an actor.
The production features two over zealous cosplayers, depicting Moore and Livingston, who are remarkably convincing when they can be found. Lena, Madison’s leading lady, proves less convincing since she’s only “acted” as a hand model and is the producer’s girlfriend.
Madison worries her first directing effort will flop, but hopes that determination and support from the town — and from Connor — can make it work.
“’Twas the Night Before Christmas” was directed by Gary Yates. The script is by C. Jay Cox (“Sweet Home Alabama,” “Latter Days”) and Gary Yates, based on the play “The Trial Before Christmas,” by Duncan Crary and Jack Casey.
Advance Praise – “Strangely Brilliant”
In her Nov. 25, 2022 holiday movie guide, NPR’s pop culture correspondent Linda Holmes praised “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” noting “Even the very traditional Hallmark sometimes hits upon a concept that is strangely brilliant.”
The Troy Christmas Connection
The beloved poem beginning with “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” first appeared anonymously in The Troy Sentinel newspaper on Dec. 23, 1823. An instant classic, the happy rhymes and rhythms created a distinctly American Santa Claus.
Decades after the poem’s first publication, wealthy biblical scholar Clement Clarke Moore claimed authorship and has been officially credited ever since. But gentlemen farmer Henry Livingston, Jr., of the Hudson Valley, may be the true, unrecognized author, according to his descendants.
Crary and Casey first staged their mock trial to determine the true poet on Dec. 18, 2013 in the Rensselaer County Courthouse in downtown Troy. Casey and his daughter Molly Casey, both practicing attorneys, represented the Livingstons suing Moore for committing “literary piracy.” Troy attorney E. Stewart Jones defended Moore. A jury selected from the packed courtroom was unable to reach a verdict in ‘13, so the case was retried the following year during Troy’s Victorian Stroll. Both courtroom spectacles made news around the world.
Crary and Casey plan to watch the Hallmark movie together for the first time when it premieres Saturday, Dec. 17.
“I love that Hallmark leaned into the quirky charisma of our original production,” said Crary, a publicist known for promoting Troy to the world. “This will add a lot of excitement for our city’s connection to this beloved poem as it turns 200 years-old next Christmas.”
In addition to being the “Hometown of Uncle Sam,” Crary says he’d like to see Troy promote itself as the birthplace of Santa.
“Two centuries ago Troy gave this Christmas gift to the world,” said Troy native Casey, an attorney and novelist. “I remember the magic in my children’s eyes as I read it each Christmas Eve, and they imagined a sleigh pulled by reindeer and Santa leaving them toys. If not for a humble Troy newspaper editor, this masterpiece might be collecting dust in some forgotten archive.”
When Can You Watch ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas?
The premiere of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas is on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 8 p.m., on Hallmark Channel.
Encore showings include Sunday, Dec. 18, at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 10 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 24, at 4 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 29, at 12 a.m., and Sunday, Jan. 1, at 10 a.m..
For those without cable, Hallmark Channel movies are on live TV streaming apps including Peacock and YouTubeTV.
Official Hallmark Logline:
A former actress trying to break into directing tests her skills with a Christmas Eve courtroom production in which the true authorship of the famous poem “A Visit from St. Nick” is debated. Starring Torrey DeVitto and Zane Holtz.
Where to Watch the Original
To watch a full video of 2014’s “The Trial Before Christmas,” filmed in the Rensselaer County Courthouse in Troy, visit www.ChristmasTrial.com