Miracle on 34th Street Review – From Radio to Stage for the Holidays

Callie Chae Pyken and Sal Sabella in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET - Photo by Matthew Gilmore

Originally a film released in 1947 starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn, MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET was subsequently broadcast in 1947 as a Lux radio production by Lance Arthur Smith starring the original motion picture cast. Since that time, it has been seen in Broadway musical versions, adapted for television in 1955, 1959, and 1975, and even became a puppet show at the Macy’s department store in New York. Now this traditional holiday favorite has again been adapted for the stage with original songs and arrangements by Jon Lorenz. However an audience experiences it, MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET still sparkles with the warmth and joy of the season.

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET Cast – Photo by Matthew Gilmore

The scene is New York City in 1947. Macy’s annual Thanksgiving parade just strutted by – and that means that Christmas is just around the corner. All is joy and excitement as Macy’s gets ready for the season; but disaster looms when Macy’s Santa – scheduled to welcome the little ones and listen to their wishes – turns out to enjoy a holiday nip a bit too much. Happily for a panicked Mr. Macy (Phil Crowley), his assistant Doris Walker (Lauren Thompson) finds a replacement in a mysterious man named Kris Kringle (Sal Sabella) who just seems to pop up at the right moment. But single-parent Doris has some problems of her own as she tries to raise her daughter Susan (Callie Chae Pyken) to be a pragmatist while neighbor – and maybe boyfriend-to-be – Fred (Matt Solomon) keeps filling Susan’s head with enchantment – and the preposterous idea that Santa really exists.

Lauren Thompson and Matt Solomon – Photo by Matthew Gilmore

Directed by Joseph Leo Bwarie with musical direction by Anthony Lucca and choreography by Anna Aimee White, MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET turns into an extravaganza of music and song as the radio characters solo, harmonize, and weave their bodies to create a melodic and very special time of year. Accompanied by a talented cast of actors who sing their hearts out, narrator/pianist Phil Crowley keeps the show upbeat and fun.

Phil Crowley and Kristin Cook – Photo by Matthew Gilmore

Everyone in the cast gets to wear multiple hats – sometimes changing personae in the space of an instant. This is a supremely entertaining production which keeps the show where it started – in 1947. Costume designer Jessica Champagne-Hansen and hair designer Jessica Mills do a great job with outfitting everyone as befits the year, while scenic designer Tanya Orellana turns the stage into a radio set and even gives the audience a chance to applaud when a certain red light blinks. Lighting (Martha Carter) and sound (Robert Arturo Ramirez) also complement the production. Above all, MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET is a foray into tradition and fun – and maybe also will remind the audience about the holiday season’s real message – a message that may sometimes get lost in malls, gifts, and internet bargains. The Actors Co-op scores another holiday winner.

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET Cast – Photo by Matthew Gilmore

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET runs through December 15, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays (additional matinee performances at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday 11/9 and Saturday 11/16; theater dark on Thanksgiving weekend). The David Schall Theatre at the Actors Co-op is located at 1760 N. Gower Street, Hollywood, CA 90028. Tickets are $39 (seniors, $35; students $30; group rates available). For information and reservations, call 323-462-8460 Ext. 300 or go online.

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