REVIEW: Greater Boston Stage Company’s classic ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ delivers a gentle nudge of holiday cheer

Miracle on 34th Street is a simple tale with a big message.

During this time of year, faith is a predominant theme within many holiday productions such as faith in humanity, in God, and in a “right jolly old elf.”  From Twas the Night Before Christmas to A Christmas Carol, the holiday spirit shines through, a temporary feeling that really should last all year long.

Directed with charm by Ilyse Robbins, based on the book by Valentine Davies, and adapted by Mountain Community Theatre, Greater Boston Stage Company’s Miracle on 34th Street continues through Sunday, December 22 at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Set in New York City, Miracle on 34th Street is about a mysterious man who becomes a last minute replacement for Santa Claus at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  He befriends Susie Walker, a precocious little girl portrayed with grace and charm by Addison McWayne, who is far too sensible for childish things including believing in Santa Claus.  Natalie Wood rose to fame in her role as Susie Walker with Maureen O’Hara as Doris Walker in the beloved 1947 film.

Greater Boston Stage Company Miracle on 34th Street cast

Jon Savage’s vibrant set design includes a lovely, towering, and whimsical Christmas tree that contributes its own unique part in the tale.  The famous parade is just one of the events that take place in the aisles during this semi-immersive production.

Though this production of Miracle of 34th Street is not considered a musical, it does have its share of musical moments.  From gift wrapping to sweeping the store shelves, the store workers do more than whistle while they work, swaying and lifting their voices in a variety of spontaneous Christmas carols such as The 12 Days of Christmas, Sleigh Ride, and The Nutcracker Suite led by the mirthful vocal stylings of David Jiles Jr. as Mr. Adams.

Packed with a likeable cast of characters including a lively and noteworthy performance by Gary Thomas NG as Alfred, Miracle on 34th Street shows it is sometimes better to see with the heart rather than the head.  Gary Thomas NG is captivating as Alfred, a humble and gleeful janitor full of holiday cheer.  NG depicts Alfred with a song in his heart as he spontaneously leaps for joy across the stage.  His comic scenes with William Gardiner as gentle, jovial and unfailingly forthright Kris Kringle are a particular highlight as they compete in board games and engage in candid conversations.  With warm charisma and that signature twinkle, William Gardiner fills Kris Kringle’s red suspenders with finesse and of the many iconic conversations he has with McWayne’s Susie, their playful dialogue about imagination is just wonderful.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In a red coat and distinctive 50s red lipstick, Sara Coombs portrays Doris Walker, an astute and shrewd businesswoman.  It is amusing to watch Walker and her “mini-me” daughter Susie as they inadvertently duplicate each other’s mannerisms.  Susie is seemingly as mature, confident, and shrewd as her elegant mother.  Showing a great rapport with each cast member, Michael Jennings Mahoney is refreshing as fun loving and laid back Fred.  Barlow Adamson exacts Macy store manager Mr. Shellhammer’s nervous and priceless tense expressions prevalent during the holiday season.

Having last seen Juliet Bowler in an affecting performance at Flat Earth Theatre’s Not Medea, it is no surprise that Bowler show off her talents as insecure, strict and secretive Leslie Sawyer.  Her cold disdain and devious manipulations reach Grinch-like proportions.  Sara Gazdowicz also takes an amusing turn as a fast talking, accent-rich NYC cop.

Greater Boston Stage Company Miracle on 34th Street Leslie, Kris, and cast

Juliet Bowler as Mrs. Sawyer, Barlow Adamson as Mr. Shellhammer, Sara Coombs as Doris Walker, and William Gardiner as Kris Kringle Photo courtesy of Nile Scott Studios/Greater Boston Stage Company

While some performances demonstrate holiday spirit in pomp and spectacle, Greater Boston Stage Company delivers that feeling with a gentle nudge of heartwarming cheer.  Greater Boston Stage Company’s Miracle on 34th Street through Sunday, December 22.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Click here to learn more about Greater Boston Stage Company and their upcoming 2020 productions.

REVIEW: Massasoit Theatre Company’s “Miracle on 34th Street the Musical” a faithfully-festive, whimsical adventure

miracles-rockettes

The cast of Massasoit Theatre Company’s production of “Miracle on 34th Street the Musical.” Cast as the Rockettes and a train conductor.

miracles-kelly-hines-and-austin-archabal

Photo courtesy of Jeanne Rocheteau. From L to R: Austin Archabal as Susan and Kelly Hines as Doris in Massasoit Theatre Company’s “Miracle on 34th Street the Musical”

It is easy to see why Massasoit Theatre Company selected “Miracle on 34th Street the Musical” as part of its 50th anniversary season. While holiday shows often delve into the true meaning of the Christmas season, “Miracle” also festively explores with heartwarming humor what makes one shun imagination and blind faith for solemn practicality. It also reminds the audience what makes faith in everything so precious. Directed by Nathan Fogg, produced by Mark Rocheteau, and choreographed by Samantha Brior Jones, Massasoit Theatre Company continues its run of “Miracle on 34th Street the Musical” through Sunday, December 18. Click here for more information and for tickets.

Set in New York City on Thanksgiving Day prior to an impressive depiction of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Kelly Hines as Doris is in the midst of a crisis. The Santa Claus they hired for the parade is out of commission at the last minute. Enter Craig O’Connor as charismatic and whimsical Kris, who may be just what Macy’s is looking for. This family friendly, classic tale is further enhanced by its beautiful, uplifting score by Meredith Wilson, who co-penned another beloved musical classic, “The Music Man” with Franklin Lacey. Massasoit’s Theatre Company’s “Miracle on 34th Street the Musical” delves into familiar carols such as It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas as well as catchy, playful, original numbers such as She Hadda Go Back, a song reminiscent of Music Man’s memorable, comedic number, Trouble. Each number offers deeper, meaningful insight into each character and heightens the show’s inherent message without veering off course.

Kelly Hines portrays Doris’s irrepressibly determined nature right down to her poised chin. Protective and practical, Hines exudes a sweet chemistry with Austin Archabal as Doris’s precocious, but curious daughter Susan, especially evident during their harmonious number, Arm in Arm. Hines also shows a new, incalculable side to her when she meets Matt Torrance as personable, but disciplined Fred Gailey. Hines offers an impassioned performance, especially with the number, You Don’t Know.

Austin Archabal shines as Susan, demonstrating her mother’s spunk, but peppered with wide-eyed wonder. She has natural, touching chemistry with each cast member, but is most memorable with Craig O’Connor’s wise, whimsical, and with a certain twinkle portrayal of bearded, spectacled Kris, especially during the number, Expect Things to Happen.

With equal twinkle and charisma is Matt Torrance’s brilliant performance as Fred. With a smooth, silvery voice, natural tap skills, and personable nature, Torrance is captivating in each scene and takes the humorous numbers, She Hadda Go Back and Look, Little Girl to a new level.

In a three piece suit, glasses, and an often frenzied look, Alexander Hagerty adds a hefty dose of zany humor as enthusiastic, and at times, bumbling Macy’s store assistant Marvin Shellhammer. From his wild antics and outlandish jingles, Hagerty is a comedic scene stealer. Possessing a melodic alto, Athan Mantalos also delivers a forthright, commanding performance as R.H. Macy.

From the portrayal of iconic holiday figures such as the Rockettes and Raggedy Ann and Andy to name a few to extraordinary, imaginative characters, the entire cast embraces holiday cheer, setting a lively, ‘50s city tone enhanced by sets depicting colorful city skylines, bright, detailed Christmas decorations, and a wide variety of creative costumes by Jennifer Spagone. Above all, Massasoit’s Theatre Company’s “Miracle on 34th Street the Musical” depicts just what love and letting go will do.

Massasoit Theatre Company’s 50th anniversary season presents their holiday production of “Miracle on 34th Street the Musical” continuing through Sunday, December 18. All performances are held at Buckley Performing Arts Center, 1 Massasoit Boulevard in Brockton, MA.  Click here for tickets and for further details of their 50th season.  Follow them on Facebook for the latest updates.