BWW Review: MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET Comes to Life at the Central New York Playhouse
The Central New York Playhouse Holiday production for this season is the timeless classic Miracle on 34th Street under the direction of Bella Calabria. production, set in present day, is heartwarming, nostalgic, and, as per usual, demonstrates the devotion of the community theater performers to their craft.
The play is based on the Twentieth Century Fox Motion Picture of the same name and adapted by Mountain Community Theater from the novel by Valentine Davies. The original 1947 film, of course, starred Edmund Gwen as Santa Claus/Kris Kringle, Maureen O'Hara as Doris Walker, and Natalie Wood as Susan Walker. It was then later remade into a 1994 film starring Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle, Elizabeth Perkins as Dorey Walker, and Mara Wilson as Susan Walker.
No matter which version you watch, it's a treasured tradition around the holidays. The message is ageless, and the story warms the hearts of adults and children year after year.
Faith, imagination, and belief in Santa are all tested when a workaholic Macy's employee Doris Walker (Korrie Taylor) hires a new Santa Claus to visit with the children in the store. The man, named Kris Kringle (Tom Minion), is the picture-perfect Santa. As a matter of fact, he says that he is indeed Santa Claus. Doris' young daughter Susan (Amelia Frick) is skeptical that the man is Santa or that Santa even exists. Kris Kringle is accused of being violent and crazy. He then finds himself in the courtroom to prove yes, there is a Santa Claus and he is, in fact, Santa.
Christopher Lupia once again transforms the stage perfectly with his detailed and functional set design. The visual appeal of the set is a standout aspect of the production especially the scenes with Santa at Macy's which are enhanced by Sarah Anson's meticulous lighting design. If I were to offer one criticism, some scene changes were very loud and rough at the performance I attended - probably mostly because of the number of people assisting.
The principal cast carries the production with great success. Korrie Taylor, as Doris Walker, shows off her confidence, impeccable line delivery, and perfectly timed facial expressions throughout. She is an engaging actress with great stage presence, and portrayed the beloved role beautifully.
Tom Minion is splendid and likeable in the role of Kris Kringle. He looks and acts like Santa Claus and delivers a spot on and heartwarming performance. He charms as he interacts with Amelia Frick as Susan Walker as show her how to have fun and use her imagination. Frick is very sweet in the role. Like Taylor his stage presence is engaging, and his acting is believable.
Abel Searor charms as the neighbor Fred Gayley. His confidence, attitude, and all-around likeable persona make him ideal for the role. Searor witty line delivery steals the courtroom scene, proving that Kris Kringle is Santa Claus.
Unfortunately, some of the cast members in the smaller roles were a bit robotic at the performance I attended. The opening scene was not at all engaging nor memorable. The lines got lost due to very poor line delivery.
The show did improve as time went on, especially when Kris Kringle became employed by Macy's. Hali Greenhouse was engaging and animated as Shellhammer. Christa Wirth as Sawyer, the Vocational Guidance Counselor at Macy's, took some time to come into the role and some of her monologues trailed off a bit. However, she gained a lot more confidence by Act II.
Then there is the adorable young cast that visits with Santa (Tatum Taylor, Jacie Conklin, Athena Clark, and Layal Meany who charmed as the Dutch girl). The teen elves (Sam Burton, Nathaniel Betters, Peyton VanBoden, and Sawyer Powell) at Macy's provide much needed comedic relief. Their banter is a highlight of the production. They make clear their loyalty to Santa.
Bill Lee charms as Macy with his gravelly voice and excellent comedic timing. Lee's chemistry with James Sharples as Bloomingdale is also noteworthy.
The courtroom scene flows nicely. Jim Molloy delivers a memorable performance as Judge Harper. Lizzy Allers gives a confident and engaging performance as Mara. Other standout performers include Jay Merante as Al and Paul Cayen as Lou. They steal the spotlight when Santa's letters are delivered in the courtroom. Merante's energy and passion make him a highpoint in the production.
Miracle on 34th Street at the Central New York Playhouse is a charming production for sure. The familiar story with its timeless message is a nice way to end the year with for this hardworking and devoted theater company.
Running time: Two hours and fifteen minutes with one twenty-minute intermission.
Miracle on 34th Street at The Central New York Playhouse runs through December 22, 2018 in Syracuse, New York at The Shoppingtown Mall. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions, click here or call 315-885-8690.