BWW Review: MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET at Artistic Synergy Of Baltimore Spreads Lots of Christmas Magic
If there's anything more magical than a Christmas show at Christmas time, I don't know what it is. The theatre is pretty special all year long, but when you add in a little sprinkle of Christmas magic, it becomes something even better. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore (ASoB) understands this principle fully, meaning their choice of the classic MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET directed by Melissa Broy Fortson, provides the perfect evening for anyone looking to experience some holiday fun. Not only does the sweet story exude the necessary Christmas-y feelings, but you get the added bonus of seeing an old story transformed into something new. Most people have a special attachment to Susie and Santa's story. Whether it's the love of the original movie, or the stage adaptation, it gives many the warm fuzzy feelings of Christmas. And with this production that love can be felt by the audience, as well as the cast.
The tale of a little girl who has chosen not to believe in Santa, until she happens upon him at Macy's, is geared towards sharing the hope of the holidays with the children in our lives. ASoB seemed to focus on that during their casting process, because the children in the show are extremely talented performers and are utterly adorable. Gracie Roberts is brilliant as Susie. She's sweet and a little bit saucy, in other words, perfectly Susie. Her talents spread from singing, to acting and even to dance. She and her mom, played by Sarah O'Hara are a fun pair, that carry the show along.
Though the true heart of the story is Susie's bond with Santa. Wayne Ivusich as the jolly old man is fantastic. His genuine affection for Susie, shines through. The audience can almost imagine him as Roberts' real-life kindly grandfather. After their chance meeting, and seeing Susie's belief in his magic, both actors had the audience exactly where they wanted them, in other words we were ready to believe in this Santa completely!
Because the story is set in the 1940s, the costumes helped to sell the era. Between the tailored suits, cabbie hats and fedoras for the men, and Christmas-y dresses and coats for the women, as well as all the fun gear you'd expect those in the Macy's parade to be wearing, the costumes set the stage for a classic 1940s production. Susie's outfits in particular were perfectly suited to the performer. From her tartan dressing gown and bunny slipper combo to the beautiful red coat and muff she wore at the start, the actress looked as though she stepped out of the original black and white version of the story.
Another aspect of ASoB's shows that I enjoy is that they use a live band. It's a treat to not only see the talented performers on stage, but also the talented musicians in the band. The music director LeVar Betts, has created a lovely ensemble that brings the sounds of the Macy's parade and the sounds of the season alive. While it was sometimes difficult to hear because of the acoustics, the band adds flare to the production, really giving it a big band 40s feeling.
ASoB clearly realizes that Miracle on 34th Street is special to a lot of people. The production is in good hands, and succeeds in creating a new version of the classic with a lovely and talented group of actors and creatives. This production is a good reminder of what makes this time of year so special!
MIRACLE ON 34th STREET opens December 7 and plays weekends through December 16, 2018 at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church | 8212 Philadelphia Road, Rosedale MD, 21237