Monday, December 3, 2012

Quick HIt Theater Review: Miracle of 34th Street

Photo: Paul Roth
Miracle on 34th Street
Book, Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson
Based on the 20th Century Fox film
Story by Valentine Davies; Screenplay by George Seaton
Director: Semina De Laurentis

What’s it about?
What, you haven’t seen the holiday classic film starring a very young Natalie Wood a couple thousand times? If not, it’s a about Doris (Cassie Taylor), who hires an authentic looking Santa for the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and to listen to what the kids waiting in line to see St. Nick at the department store want for Christmas. Disillusioned after a divorce, Doris won’t let her daughter, Susan (Kaitlyn Mueller) believe in Santa, or anything that she can’t see, hear or touch. Fred (Billy Hannon, Jr.), a handsome new lawyer in town, befriends Susan, who dreams about visiting Santa at his toy shop (twin sister Kristianna Mueller dances the role of Susan). Fred dreams about winning Doris’ heart.  

Kris starts generating some holiday cheer of his own when he declares the wishes of kids are more important than making a buck a Christmas and starts sending customers over to Gimbels, or other stores, where they can find what their kids want if Macy’s doesn’t have it. At first, store owner Macy (Jonathan Ross; Matthew Berry Dec. 28 and 29) is upset, but eventually congratulates Doris and her assistant, Marvin Shellhammer (James Donohue), on a sensational marketing scheme that is generating lots of happy customers for Macy’s.  

Kris’ sanity comes into question, however, when he insists that he really is the one and only Santa Claus. Fred defends Kris in a trial presided over by Judge Henry Harper (Chuck DellaRocco) as District Attorney Thomas Mara (Tom Chute  through Dec. 9, then Joe Stofko) tries to have the old man committed. Will Doris and Susan find they can believe in Santa after all?

What are the highlights?
The parade seen is terrifically stages with marching bands, entertaining acts and the famous Macy’s balloons all depicted while Music Director Richard DeRosa and his five-man band play a score by Meredith “Music Man” Wilson that includes “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” Alexander Butler as Mara’s grandson is adorable as is Grace Rundhaug, who believes in Santa when Kris is able to speak to her in her native Dutch. The real Macy’s over at the Brass Mill Mall also got involved in the production, decorating the theater lobby and providing discount cards in the program.

What are the lowlights?

This is Equity theater Seven Angel’s annual “professional-community collaborative.” The production leans heavily toward the community, rather than professional (lots of flats), but the collaborative gets local performers on stage -- and there are a lot of them in the sizable ensemble -- so that’s a highlight. DeLaurentis might work some to tone down Susan’s over-the-top efforts to be cute. Sound mix, especially on group numbers, needs some tweaking. The musicians, housed on the floor house right of the stage, can be heard talking in between their numbers (and get some black wrap on the glaring light which is distracting to the audience over there). 

More information:
Through Dec. 30 Friday at 8 pm; Thursday and Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Special dates:
Dec 6 Beer & Pizza Night
Dec 7 Half Price Drink Night
Dec 8 Mimosa Matinee
Dec 14 Sweet Maria’s Night
Dec 15 Fascia’s Chocolate Night
Dec 21 Wine and Martini Night
Dec 23 Sundaes On Sunday

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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