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BWW Reviews: 'Here's Love' to You, Brooklyn

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Just in time to witness the end of Thanksgiving and joyfully move on towards a celebration of the Christmas season, the incredibly talented cast of Miracle on 34th Street, the Musical (also known as Here's Love) brings MerEdith Wilson's rarely staged musical to life with its jubilant presence, proclaiming that it is time at last for Santa to make his much anticipated appearance - this time in Bay Ridge.

Wilson, whose credits include The Music Man and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, has transformed the time 1947 classic starring Maureen O'Hara and Natalie Wood into a show that can only be described as pure joy on stage - from clowns and lollipops bouncing here and there about the stage, to Santa making his grand entrance proceeding the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Bay Ridge's own Narrows Community Theatre has invited actors both young and old, amateur and professional, and from around the neighborhood and those beyond, to take part in this Christmas phenomenon that is sure to leave a smile on the audience's face. Not only that, but complete with both a wonderfully uplifting and jovial repertoire of songs and a plot known by generations, all who wish to experience the spirit of Christmas a bit earlier this year will find just a small hint of hope in their hearts that may not have been there before.

Narrows, a theatre group that has been presenting professional-grade theatre to the Bay Ridge community for over forty years, and responsible for such recent productions as My Fair Lady, Broadway in Bay Ridge and Crazy for You, has taken on quite a challenge with its decision to stage Wilson's musical. As many know, Miracle is a tale of inspiration and faith - the persistence of a childish hope that forces us to not consider, but indeed fight for one's belief in Santa Claus, even if against what reason dictates to be true. This is a story not about Christmas in the form many see it in today - a holiday of commercialism, with anxiety-driven shoppers anxious to find the best deals and those stores that would rather skip Thanksgiving to accommodate such people in their consumer frenzy - but instead focuses on what it truly means to be human, and how such a feat measures up to the "fictional" presence of Kris Kringle himself.

Miracle begins with Macy's famous Thanksgiving Day Parade, a triumphant start that seems to promise nothing but sugarplums and happiness for all as the Christmas season is about to begin. Yet, when the man hired by Mr. Macy (Alex Amarosa) to play Santa is discovered to be quite drunk in his sleigh by parade coordinator and Macy's employee Doris Walker (played by Karen Mascolo), Kris Kringle (Michael Blake) arrives on the scene with the spark of coincidence and agrees to fill in for this intoxicated excuse of an international icon. From there, Santa becomes an honored employee of the city's largest department store, persuading people to honor the true meaning of Christmas by showing love towards each other and simply believing - believing in the possibility of a world that may seem irrational and childish, but one that should never have disappeared from our hearts in the first place. After winning over the heart of young Susan Walker (Lucy Sullivan/Mariana Weaver), Kringle runs into a bit of trouble when trying to convince those over the age of ten to believe in the prospect of a Santa Claus, and winds up in trouble with Macy's psychologist (Marguerite Higgins), eventually guiding him to the witness stand in the Supreme Court where a disbelieving judge (Bennett Silverstein) and lawyer/Doris' love interest Fred Gaily (Dalles Wilie) fight to settle the case on whether or not such a person as Santa truly exists.

This story is so well know because of the question implied in its plot: Why, when childhood is no more, should one's belief in Santa not diminish along with it? The storyline presents this idea well enough, but when music and dance is added, the audience cannot help but believe in something greater, and therefore side with those who struggle to win the crowd over in Kris Kringle's favor. Whether or not Santa is really proven to exist is of little consequence, but both actor and audience member alike will revel in the resurrected belief in Christmas and all its joys by the show's end. Just as we know the anticipated result of the trial towards the movie's end, the beautiful score combined with the smiling faces of children and adults alike will make that anticipated movie ending we all know and love that much more potent and affecting, bringing to Brooklyn a show that is underappreciated in both its beauty and encouraging message it gives to all.

Although, bringing this show to the local stage proved to be quite the feat; fortunately, the show's director and behind the scenes company proved to be efficient in making sure this show was ready to be presented by its opening night, which ironically enough fell on the infamous Black Friday. What happened, you ask? Well, not only were certain bars of music cut to allow the show a comfortable two hour and forty-five minute run, but with a cast of over fifty, consisting largely of energetic youngers eager to dance, sing and show Bay Ridge just what they've got, director Alex Amarosa is truly quite brave and wonderfully dedicated to have this show ready for Friday's premiere - and my, did this dedication pay off. The smiling faces of these children are as abundant as the amount of talent they portray in their dance steps and bright as their voices during music numbers; although this number of children in the cast was not originally called for, they do add that special something to NCT's production.

As a theatre group dedicated to finding and keeping those members who have proven themselves to be dedicated and talented performers, these children prove to be no strangers to the stage. As they masquerade around, dressed as anything from clowns and lollipops, to ragdolls, soldiers and holiday shoppers, they essentially provide the youthful presence that, without them there, would defeat the entire purpose of the show. In costume, they truly are a treat to behold, and thanks to designer Angela Borst, they are colorful additions to an already beautifully lighted set with a real sleigh on stage! As the adults join them in ensemble numbers, posing as parents, relatives, friends and "shop-mates," the show's amazing combination of choreography (arranged by David Paul Kidder) and musical direction (led by Heather Edwards) brings out that energy which is so innately present in this show; transforming a movie from decades and decades ago was one of the cleverest things Wilson could have done to bring new life to a stage, and the NCT cast and crew are certain not to disappoint anyone in bringing this glorious musical to a Brooklyn audience.

Amarosa gives his opinion on what, from a director's perspective, this show ultimately represents. "I'm hoping the audience comes away with a sense of warmth - a renewed faith in human beings, in Christmas, and themselves...to laugh, to cry, to stimulate memories deep within them. This show will remind everyone that Christmas is timeless, and whether a person is five or ninety-five, it's a magical time of the year that no one can deny."

This faith that the director alludes to, which is the true basis of this musical, is why he concludes with the statement that "There is a Santa Claus in each and every one of us." So, whether or not one believes in the existence of Santa, the magic of Christmas is sure to kindle that light perhaps many of us lost long ago. That, my friends, is the true miracle.

Miracle on 34th Street. the Musical opened on November 29th, and will continue with performances on November 30th, December 6th and 7th at 8:00 p.m. (Friday/Saturdays), as well as December 1st and 8th (Sundays) at 2 p.m. Performances are held at Fort Hamilton Army Base in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, located at 101st Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway; please bring a form of ID to enter the base. Tickets are on sale at $20 for adults, $15 for seniors/students under 21 and $10 for children 12 and under. There is also a special All You Can Eat Brunch Buffet before both Sunday Performances, to be held at the Fort Hamilton Army Base Country Club; this is $20 with purchase of a ticket to the show, and is sure to be fun!

To reserve your tickets, call (718)-482-3173, visit www.narrowscommunitytheater.com or send in a request to NCT@NCTheaterNY.com.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Sullivan/Mijola Photography


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