TR Robertson — Once again San Diego Musical Theatre takes a time honored classic, creates a 1947 recording studio, allows the audience to become a part of the show and the result is a festive and incredibly enjoyable trip down memory lane just in time for the holiday season. On December 22, 1947, the Lux Radio Station broadcast, for the first time, “Miracle on 34th Street”, which would become a tradition until 1954. SDMT has started their own tradition in this the third year they have brought this warm, tender Christmas story to the stage.
The musical is from an adaptation by Lance Arthur Smith with original score and arrangements by Jon Lorenz and original direction and choreography by Colleen Kollar Smith. A classically designed radio studio was constructed under the direction of Michael McKeon, 40’s era costuming by Janet Pitcher, Property Master Heather Longfellow, Sound Designer Kevin Anthenill, Technical Director Steven Longfellow, timely and effective lighting by Michelle Miles and all under the direction of Neil Dale.
Photos by Ken Jacques
The basic story of the Academy Award winning 1947 movie, “A Miracle on 34th Street”, from which this radio musical is taken, revolves around the firing of a drunk Santa and hiring of Kristofer Van Lisberg as Santa to work in Macey’s Department Store. Kristofer introduces himself as Kris Kringle. A series of events will lead to the firing, re-hiring of Kris Kringle as everything he does strikes gold for Macey’s and for those around Kris. He gets himself in trouble with an encounter with a nasty HR man, Granville Sawyer, and he ends up locked away right before Christmas and eventually on trial to try and prove whether he is indeed Santa. Along the way Kris will bring together a number of people proving love indeed does blossom at Christmas.
A very talented, veteran cast of actors and actresses, many of whom have performed in other SDMT productions, play a variety of characters as the audience is left enthralled as they bring the story to life. Over the top personalities harmonize on classic Christmas songs, sing catchy songs for the KSDMT ads, provide appropriate sounds with props, and portray the characters from the movie with dialogue that fits each character. This is a production where each cast member is allowed to show the audience a true range of their creative talent and a wonderful voices that blend beautifully with the holiday songs.
Andrew Orbison is the radio stations consummate piano player and narrator of the “Miracle of 34th Street”, Alex Mialdo. He also steps away from the piano in the second half of the show as Judge Henry the person who will make the final decision on whether or not Kris Kringle is indeed Santa. Alex helps instruct the audience on the appropriate time to look for the Applause sign, after all we are live on a 1940’s radio show. Other cast members include Bryan Banville as Grady Williams, portraying Fred the lawyer who is the romantic interest of Doris, and the man with the heart of gold who befriends Kris and the man who will defend him in court. Katie Banville plays Cordelia Ragsdale, who portrays Doris Walker the woman who will be the most changed person in the story as she finds love and opens her heart to allow to believe something that can’t be fully proven. Grady says to her, “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to”.
Steve Freitas returns to play Wallace Ainsley and numerous other roles – Julian Shellhammer Macy’s department head, Mr. Macy, Mr. Gimble, the D.A. Thomas Mara and the evil Granville Sawyer. Playing Kristofer Van Lisberg (Kris Kringle) for the first time at SDMT is Ralph Johnson who is able to show off his singing talents in “Santa Don’t Let Us Down”. Emma Nossal returns to SDMT to play Olivia Glatt. She will portray a number of other roles including Dr. Pierce who feels that it is enough that Kris believes he is Kris Kringle. The final actress is Isabella Pruter, who plays Gracie De Marco and portrays Susie Walker, Doris’s daughter. Isabella is, perhaps, one of the most energetic actresses I have ever seen on stage. She enthusiastically brings Susie to life as she transforms into a girl who takes a step forward in believing by faith.
This is a fun, inspirational, highly entertaining holiday musical that is fast becoming a tradition not to be missed during the holiday season. There are lessons to be learned, great presentations and new interpretations of seasonal songs as well as great performances by a talented cast.
“Miracle on 34th Street A Live Musical Radio Play” will run until December 23rd at the Horton Grand Theatre on 444 Fourth Street in San Diego’s Gaslamp District. Tickets are available at 858-560-5740 or at www.sdmt.org. Next up for SDMT is the start of their 2019 Season with the presentation of the Tony Award winning “Crazy for You” beginning on February 1st.