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BWW Review: PLAYHOUSE ON THE AIR PRESENTS: MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET at Des Moines Playhouse: Its Beginning to Sound A lot Like Christmas

A Miraculous Story Comes To Stage

BWW Review: PLAYHOUSE ON THE AIR PRESENTS: MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET at Des Moines Playhouse: Its Beginning to Sound A lot Like Christmas
Adam Beilgard
Maggie Schmitt
Vivian Coleman
Dan Chase
Melanie Hall
Photo by Brent Isenberger

It's that time of year again, a time when we gather at our local theatres to see our favorite stories come to life on the stage. While Covid may have impacted if and how we attend productions, Des Moines Playhouse is allowing us to see a show either in person or virtually with their holiday family classic, "Playhouse "On The Air" Presents: Miracle on 34th Street." This production opened on December 4 and is now available to see in person or online.

The first two shows of their season were presented in person with virtual options on opening night. The Playhouse shares the following regarding this production, "The reason video-on-demand usually has limited dates is that we have to pay royalties for each day we provide on-demand and it is usually not cost-effective to do more than three days (Friday-Sunday). Miracle on 34th Street is in the public domain and this script is by Playhouse executive director David Kilpatrick, so we can air it as long as we want."

If you aren't familiar with the story of "Miracle on 34th Street," it tells the story of Macy's event director, Doris Walker, who has hired a Santa Clause for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. She is sought out by a man named Kris Kringle, who informs her that this drunk Santa is a disgrace. Kris happens to look like what people believe Santa looks like, so Doris hires him on the spot. When the Santa float passes by with Kris, it is pure magic. People believe him to be the real Santa Clause. Immediately he is hired on as the in-store Santa for Macy's.

We soon meet Fred Gailey, Doris' neighbor, who brings her daughter Susan to meet Kris Kringle. When her daughter believes him to be real after Doris had taught her not to believe in Santa. This worries Doris. When he claims to be the real Santa, Doris questions Kris' mental stability and has him take a "psychological evaluation". When Kris hits the guy administering the "evaluation," a new problem arises. This is now going to court. Could he possibly be the real Santa Clause? If so, how can it be proved? That you will have to attend the show to find out.

BWW Review: PLAYHOUSE ON THE AIR PRESENTS: MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET at Des Moines Playhouse: Its Beginning to Sound A lot Like Christmas
Adam Beilgard
Maggie Schmitt
Dan Chase
Vivian Coleman
Melanie Hall
Photo by Brent Isenberger

The cast is filled mostly with actors known to Playhouse attendees but also features two Playhouse Debuts with Vivian Rosalie Coleman as Susan Walker/Annie Carroll, and Adam Patrick Fast as Rod Rhymer/Voice Artist. It also features Melanie R. Hall, Adam Beilgard, and Preshia Paulding, making their returns to the playhouse stage. The cast does a terrific job in bringing these characters to life in a way that you forget that it is a radio show. I found myself at times imagining this a fully staged play and forgetting that these are actors standing at microphones at the front of the stage.

eading the cast as Trevor Ashe/Kris Kringle is Dan Chase. He brings a heartfelt and comical take on his characters. One of my favorite moments of his is during the second half, where he plays two characters. During this scene, he smoothly transfers from one character to another multiple times. The heart he brings to the show is in his Kris Kringle. The way he effortlessly reveals who he is to different characters in the show will make even the most skeptical person a believer in his Santa Clause.

Also leading the cast is Maggie Schmitt in the dual roles of Mary Lindsey and Doris Walker. It's always a treat to see her cast in a show. Maggie has a way of escaping into the text of the show and becoming the character. It was a thrill watching how her Doris Walker was so focused on facts and appearance at the top of the show, to allowing for imagination and belief towards the end of the show. It's a fun journey that the audience gets to follow her on.

BWW Review: PLAYHOUSE ON THE AIR PRESENTS: MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET at Des Moines Playhouse: Its Beginning to Sound A lot Like Christmas
Foley Artists Table
Photo by Brent Isenberger

Another treat of the night is getting to experience two live foley artists, Susan Eisenhour and Jerry Eisenhour, providing the sound effects. Having not seen a show with live foley artists, the sound effects were a little jarring at times when the show started. When I saw actors walking to the mics, but the sound effects not matching their walk, it pulled me out of the story a little bit. I share this experience so if it is your first time with live foley artists, it doesn't seem jarring to you. They did a tremendous job, and once I got used to having them onstage, and let myself listen to the story instead of necessarily watching it, the live sound effects became tremendously enjoyable.

Whether you are streaming or attending the show in person, you won't be able to help but be in the Christmas spirit once the preshow talk is over, which I highly recommend you come early for. When they raise the projection, the audience gets to see the beautiful set which was a concept of director Katy Merriman with set dressing by Angela Lampe. It captures the spirit of Christmas, as well as the show without an actor on stage. When you add in Lampe's costumes and lighting by Virgil Kleinhesselink, the audience is transported into the radio station cleverly titled WDMP. To find out what the call letters are for, you will have to attend the preshow.

While 2020 has proven itself to be a hard year, there is something miraculous about being able to let yourself go for about an hour and a half, and allowing yourself to be entertained. Not only does this telling of "Miracle on 34th Street" entertain, but it also allows escape to another time and place. Each aspect of the show is so carefully thought out and by the end will have you believing that you may have just seen that miraculous spark that makes this time of year so enjoyable. For more information about "Playhouse on the Air Presents: Miracle on 34th Street," or for in-person tickets or video on demand visit Playhouse on the Air Presents: Miracle on 34th Street - Des Moines Playhouse (dmplayhouse.com)

Review was written by DC Felton
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From This Author DC Felton