Miracle on 34th Street
Adapted by Mountain Community Theatre from the novel by Valentine Davies.
Based on the Twentieth Century Fox picture, Miracle on 34th Street
Directed by Rita Hight
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved
Tom Morton & Kara Merchant in Miracle on 34th Street. Courtesy Clarksville Little Theatre.
Do you believe in Santa Claus? It is perhaps one of the most asked questions, especially around this time of year, when local stores have set out the Christmas decorations alongside the Halloween candy. So, you can’t blame Clarksville Little Theatre for injecting a little Holiday joy before the formalities of Christmastide commence after Thanksgiving. Their timing was perfect, especially given a challenging week shared by many.
I am sure you know the story: The streets of New York are lined by young and old waiting for the traditional Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. During the hustle and bustle of getting everything together Macy’s eager and practical Special Events Manager Doris Walker (Rachel Allen) looks for a person to replace the drunken Santa that is set to be in the parade. Enter Kris Kringle (Tom Morton), who proves to be such a big hit that the store hires him to be their store Santa during the Holidays.
Upon further investigation, Ms. Walker learns that Kris fancies himself to be the Real Santa and consults with Doctor Pierce (Denver Bays) who took care of him while he was being treated. Despite Dr. Pierce’s statement that Kris is harmless, she remains cautious, especially around her daughter Susan (Kara Merchant), who she has taught to be pragmatic and not buy into fantasy.
Through the course of the season Kris’ spirit sweeps over the city and raises a flag of caution for Macy’s and its Employment Counselor Mr. Sawyer (Richard Seng), even though Kris has even started to win over the hearts of the cynical Walker ladies. After a contentious staff meeting, Sawyer and Kris fall into a disagreement that leads to an altercation that then sees Kris committed to Bellevue Hospital because of his delusional character. Doris’ next door neighbor and attorney friend Fred Gayley (James Ballard) takes on the case to free Kris and prove that he is just as competent as the next person, not only because he believes in Kris but he also wants to get closer to Doris.
Yes indeed, the black and white movie starring Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood, is filled with iconic scenes, most notably young Natalie tugging on Kris Kringle’s beard (it’s in the show too). But aside from scenes that I have seen within other movies or TV shows, or glancing at the movie as it has been played in the background, I have never seen the movie in its entirety. I am actually glad that I didn’t as it gave me a different perspective in watching Clarksville Little Theatre’s production.
On the whole, the production was enjoyable and entertaining and even gave me the nice warm glow that one wants when extoling the virtues and importance of faith and belief. While not a big role, Shannon Frazier’s Shellhammer (Doris’ assistant) had just the right kind of wide-eyed optimism and caution. Denver Bays’ Doctor Pierce was a great advocate for his friend Kris. Kara Merchant’s Susan Walker was equal parts sweet and sour, just as I would expect from a child that is questioning what she has always been taught, but seeing something different transpiring in front of her. James Ballard played the handsome, patient, fun-loving lawyer/friend Fred Gayley very well. Rachel Allen’s Doris was exasperated, unsure and cautious – like a pro. Tom Morton looked and sounded the part of Kris Kringle, encapsulating what I always thought Santa would be like.
Throughout the evening it was noticeable that the cast was unsure about their dialogue, especially Richard Seng’s Sawyer, but I really chalk that up to first time in front of an audience. I have to give special recognition to some within the company that stood out. Mr. Kringle’s elf brigade are absolutely delightful and provided an enjoyable and danceable Christmas polka, not to mention that when they were to speak in tandem, I hardly heard a mistake. Great job. Another thumbs up goes to Brylee Deuser for speaking Dutch so well (you too Tom Morton).
While for the most part the costumes looked 1940ish, I do question the printed socks that the elves wore. Scenery was appropriate and easy to move and the lighting was effective. I felt the production needed to tighten up some scenes a touch. I thought the end of Act I and the finale had climaxes that could have used a little bit of a cut: watching Dr. Pierce and Kris Kringle shake hands for what seemed like 3 minutes is a bit much before the fade out before the scurtain. Similarly for the finale, fade out and draw the curtain just as….well, I’m not going to spoil the ending, but it would have made for a better dramatic impact.
So, if you are ready to start your Christmas early, before untangling the lights and hanging the wreaths, get yourself to Clarksville Little Theatre. I am sure you will leave the theater feeling a little bit better about the World and be instilled with a glimmer of hope.
Miracle on 34th Street
November 11, 12, 17, 18, 19 at 8:00PM
November 13 at 2:00PM
For tickets, please call the box office at 812.283.6522
Clarksville Little Theatre
301 E. Montgomery Avenue
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.