Miracle on 34th St
Live Musical Radio Play
Adapted from the 1947 Lux Radio Broadcast by Lance Arthur Smith,
Original songs and Arrangements by Jon Lorenz
Nov 26 – Dec 23
Let's do the review:
This musical play has many layers. For fans of Miracle on 34th Street, one of the great feel-good films ever, we have the telling of that story - in the form of a radio play, in the style of Orson Welles classic tales of 1934-1952. We, the audience, are flies on the wall in the KSDMT Studios as we watch characters from the movie perform the characters from the script. The time being 1947 *coincidentally when a pilot named Kenneth Arnold saw some UFOs flying around Mount Rainier in Washington state and coined the phrase, "Flying Saucer". Me, I'm thinking all he saw was Santa, but I digress.
This review has a Christmas Present for you:
1. The cast is absolutely outstanding. They are having fun, and the chemistry and joy in their performances is infectious - in the Holiday Spirit kind of way, not the Covid way.
2. The quality each actor brings to their role is top-notch. There are standouts, but it's each cast member at different times. You'll remember them all as unique characters, and profoundly talented singers and actors.
3. Speaking of the singing, these are among the finest voices to ever grace the Hippodrome stage. And with that talent, Bryan Mercer's mercurial leadership rewards the audience with tight snappy tunes that sound like a record, if that can be said. I felt as if I was truly listening to a radio broadcast but then I looked at the stage and...
4. This is a radio play. A flash of that classic show, A Prairie Home Companion springs to mind. You see in real time the performers engaging in creative Foley work which emulates the sounds of walking, horses, crowd noises, doors opening and closing, clinking of flatware at a social gathering, and so on. Watching the actors seamlessly performing these acts of physical musicality and dexterity while also singing and "reading" their script lines is a sight to behold. It's a great inside look at what it takes to entertain in the radio medium. You remember...before TV and Smart Phones? Families would gather around and use...yes...their imagination?
5. Carson Holley. I don't mean to highlight any actor over another, but the young genius who plays Gracie Demarco performing as Susan Walker - well, she's going to be famous. Soon. Mark my words. Get an autograph after the show if you can.
6. Although the actors play characters performing as other characters, they also perform as even other characters. What I mean to say is that each character will be doing a number of different voices. And as I intended not to highlight any actor over another, be on the lookout for some comically out-there voice work with the extraordinary David Patrick Ford as Grady Williams performing Fred Gailey among others. You starting to see the layers yet?
7. That said, Laura Hodos as Cordelia Ragsdale performing Doris Walker imbues her character with real-deal humanistic qualities, the kind that beg empathy from the crowd. We cheer and cry for her. She brings the goods. Sophia Young as Olivia Glatt performing--as the press handout says--"Female Character Actor", well she's far beyond that. She, subtly, resonately strikes as the outsider. But her saucy assured no-nonsense power is palpable. By the end of the performance, in many ways, she eclipses the supporting roles. You'll not forget her.
8. David Carey Foster (there's a super-star name for you!) portraying Kristofer Van Lisberg performing as the big man, Kris Kringle (that's Santa for those who don't know), is so beguiling. He's able to give the audience what Judge Judy might call "reasonable doubt" to this Santa character. Is he? Isn't he? Lisberg's vocal cadences as the protagonist in the radio play are spot-on. He's gentle, kind, vulnerable, and human. He's freakin' Mr. Rogers if Mr. Rogers was Santa. And who's to say he isn't? Wasn't? The chemistry between young Susan Walker and Kris Kringle are absolutely heart-melting.
9. Bryan Mercer - holding court at the pian-ah! (That's what Director Stephanie Lynge affectionately called it on the night of our preview.) Wow. He's acting, playing the music, he's arranged the performances and worked with the actors to such a turn, they modulate and land every harmonic cadence like ABBA. That good! (Haters be damned.) Mercer, as the center of the show, holds court but never outshines his orchestral performers. This is a true ensemble with profound collective camaraderie and joy. They get Christmas. They get Linus. They get older cynical rat-heads like me. And they fix my head, if only for a moment. They, through this play, remind us all that we can do good. We can be good. We can share joy. We can overcome adversity. We can triumph over evil. We can find a common ground. We can tell stories. We can, if only for the moments of a play passing in the night, experience blissful innocence, the way we popped out into the infinite mortal coil.
See it, if you have even a hint of light still left in your heart. It's a good blissful burn!
Incredible Technical Direction: Warren Goodwin
Amazing Lighting by: Bob Robbins
Fantastic Sound Design by: Amanda Nipper
Remarkable Costumes by: Erin Jester
Awesome Stage Manger: Amber Wilkenson
Brilliant Assistant Stage Manager - Laura Hart