BWW Reviews: Despite Stellar Cast, Touring Production of MIRACLE ON 34th STREET Needs a Miracle

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BWW Reviews: Despite Stellar Cast, Touring Production of MIRACLE ON 34th STREET Needs a Miracle

Greeting audiences with a familiar New York City backdrop painting framed in a gorgeous white paneling and seasonal décor, the touring production of "Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical" doesn't offer much beyond its original seasons' greetings. Despite a strong, talented cast, the musical only offers a hodge-podge of mostly unmemorable songs that try too hard to recreate composer MerEdith Wilson's most famous scores. 

Wilson, of course, is of "The Music Man" and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" fame, but none of what made his masterpieces so memorable comes through in "Miracle," which makes for a holiday show strangely lacking in Christmas music. The Christmas story stays put, remaining true to its source material, the 1947 film. Kris Kringle comes to New York City to save the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, after which he attempts to win over Doris and her daughter, Susan, both of whom do not believe in Santa Claus. In the process, Kris must also win over the city, as a disgruntled Macy's employee causes trouble for everyone.

With a script that comes almost directly from the film and music that just doesn't fit, "Miracle" would be far better suited to a smaller, more intimate theatre. The Troupe America national touring production deserves credits for Director John Tsafoyannis' smart casting choices. Both leads and ensemble have the chops to outshine the material they're given to work with. FrEd Mackaman makes an amiable Kris Kringle. With a beautiful voice, Karen Weber has some of the best standout moments of the show playing the cynical mother, Doris Walker, and Bella Blackshaw shows great promise with adorable singing and acting as the young Susan. Jeff March plays Susan's inspiring neighbor, Fred Gailey. Tom Bengston is appropriately hilarious as the anxious employee supervisor Mr. Shellhammer, and Marl Bailey Capalbo displays one of the best vocal and acting talents in the small, but memorable role of Mr. Macy.

Still, as it currently stands, the tour only has three musicians in the pit (most of the music is synthesized) and it uses pleasant, but minimal sets and staging. A lovely parade procession requires audiences to use their imagination, and that works fine until Santa comes out on a pathetic, cardboard sleigh. More crucial moments go by quickly while other moments drag on too long. The overture seems like a mash up of indistinguishable tunes. Audiences get a reprieve from the dull production in the second act when some real life finally enters a courtroom scene.

But overall, the phenomenal cast of "Miracle on 34th Street" could not save a poorly put-together script, especially when a bad sound system of echoing mikes made it difficult to understand half of the dialogue and lyrics Saturday afternoon at the Gallo Center. The musical does have its positive moments - Kris Kringle sings a moving "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You" lullaby, and everyone knows "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas" - and Children will love seeing Santa Clause on stage, but adults will have a far more difficult time staying interested. 

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MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET National Tour

Gallo Center for the Arts
Modesto, CA
November 23-25

www.galloarts.org

Ellen Eccles Theatre
Logan, Utah
November 27-29

Union Colony Civic Center
Greeley, Colorado
November 29

Cam-Plex Heritage Center
Gillette, Wyoming
November 30

Alberta Bair Theatre
Billings Montanna
December 1

The Mother Lode Theatre
Butte, Montanna
December 2

The Lerner Performing Arts Center
Elkhart, Indiana
December 5

Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center
Johnstown, Pennsylvania
December 6

Macomb Center for the Performing Arts
Clinton Township, Michigan
December 7-8

Ford Community and Performing Arts Center
Dearborn, Michigan
December 9

Tilson Auditorium
Terre Haute, Indiana
Decmber 10

Fox Cities Performing Arts Center
Appleton, Wisconsin
Decmber 11

The Orpheum Theatre
Galesburg, Illinois
December 12

The Strand Theatre
Shreveport, Lousiana
December 14

Alma Performing Arts Center
Alma, Arkansa
Decmeber 15

The Carson Center
Paducah, Kentucky
December 17

Southern KY Performing Arts Center
Bowling Green, Kentucky
December 18

Henderson Fine Arts Center
Henderson, Kentucky
December 19

Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center
Cedar Falls, Iowa
December 21

The Hoyt Sherman Place
Des Moines, Iowa
December 22

Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts
Fairfield Iowa
December 23
 

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Harmony Wheeler A theater lover since childhood, Harmony Wheeler has done Marketing and Public Relations work for Sierra Repertory Theatre, Hillhouse Opera Company and other companies. She graduated with high honors from Biola University with her degree in Journalism and an emphasis in Public Relations. In addition to working for the Gallo Center for the Arts, MJM Entertainment Group, Biola University Marketing and Communications, 6th Street PR, and Zimbabwe Gecko Society, Wheeler has written for The Modesto Bee, The Chimes, Static MultiMedia, BullyPulpit.com, TUFW Alumnus Magazine, Christian Book Previews, The Christian Communicator, and Church Libraries Magazine. Her photos appear in The Dominican Dream, a book available for purchase through Biola University's Journalism Department. Her photography and video work can be found at http://photographybyharmonywheeler.shutterfly.com/. To learn more about Harmony Wheeler, or to contact her for work possibilities, visit www.harmonywheeler.com.


 
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