Leah Hunt, Robyn LeGris,
and Deion Adkins

It's that time of year again and the Pearl Theater is celebrating the season with their production of Miracle on 34th Street. The play is based on the beloved 1947 film original and adapted by Mountain Community Theater from the novel by Valentine Davies.

The storyline is well-known: Doris Walker, a disillusioned and practical woman, runs the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. When the santa she hired shows up intoxicated she must replace him with someone else, and Kris Kringle (yes, that's his real name) just happens to be available. Kris is very popular with customers and he proves to be a big asset to Doris' career. He exhibits all the qualities of the real santa, but cynical Doris resists believing in miracles or in any hope of lasting love. To make matters more complicated, her daughter, Susan, wants to believe in all the magic that Christmas has to offer, in spite of being raised to think in a logical, analytical way. When Kris reveals that he really believes he is Santa, Doris fires him, believing that she is doing the right thing by protecting people from someone who may be delusional. This leads to a courtroom battle in which the question of Santa's existence come into play.

There are some elements of the Pearls' production that work well. Set design by Jonathan Gonzalez, Robyn LeGris, Peter Van Nifterik, and Ron Rohrbacher is magical and inspired by the season. The main set is wonderful, with beautiful, whimsical snowflakes painted on the floor and walls. The play works well in the Pearl Theater's limited space, with set pieces that are serviceable and suit the mood of the play.

Cherish Loog, who plays Shellhammer, Doris' assistant, is excellent with her high energy and complete character immersion. Long is confident and fun to watch throughout the show, and she exuded a certain style about her that worked with the 1950's time period.

Courtney Van Auken is adorable as Susan, but not too adorable. Many times child actors will go too far, rendering a sickeningly sweet portrayal, and luckily Van Auken avoids this. This is especially important when playing the precocious Susan. Van Auken's stage confidence made it easy to enjoy her performance.

Trevor Van Auken, SR. plays Santa, and his rendering is more of a soft, low-key, teddy-bear of a Santa Claus,

Trevor Van Auken, Sr.
as Kris Kringle

rather than the jolly, magical type seen more prevalently. He is especially effective in his scenes with Fred (Deion Adkins), and in a scene when he sings "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" with the elves.

Playing the no-nonsense Doris, Melissa J. Mayo begins her performance with hesitancy and seems a little timid in the first act. By the second act she is more confident and finds more of a connection with the audience. Doris' romance with Fred Gailey, played by the affable Deion Adkins, works very well at times, especially at the end of the show when everything falls into place for the couple.

Silver fox Kevin Blankenship seems made to play Mr. Bloomingdale with his crackling energy and dynamic voice. Steve Lassiter plays a good counterpart to Mr. Bloomingdale as Mr. Macy, and the scene with the two rivals is enjoyable.

Robyn LeGris is outstanding as Judge Harper. Her portrayal is wonderfully natural and believable as the authoritative, yet down-to-earth voice of reason.

Playing a handful of character parts, Brennan Blankenship is kooky and fun to watch, especially as the Russian zookeeper. Leah Hunt gives a compelling and focused performance as the prosecuting attorney who wants to prove Kris Kringle is insane. Steve Harrison is well-cast as Finley and does a good job playing the deputy.

As Kris' psychiatrist, Ty K. Fisher does a good job playing the soft-mannered advocate. Spencer Cranford Tolleson plays Mr. Sawyer, a man who wants to see Kris committed and dethroned as Santa. Tollsen has a natural quality to his acting, but I would've liked to have seen a little more venom and contention in his portrayal.

Several teen actors round out the cast as Santa's elves and they give enthusiastic and energetic momentum to the production.

There are many, many scene changes in this play and kudos to stage manager Cheryl Loudd and all of the technicians and actors who strike the sets and rearrange set pieces. Scene changes were done quickly and efficiently and that is to be applauded.

The Pearl Theater's MIRACLE ON 34th STREET is fairly solid, overall. Some actors need to project their voices more effectively, especially when upstage. There is some awkward blocking when actors are upstage and have their backs to the audience, making it difficult if not impossible to see them from any side of the thrust-style stage configuration.

This production has a lot of heart to it and if you're in need of some Christmas spirit, head over to the Pearl Theater and see this holiday gem.

For tickets: This production runs through December 21.

Photo Credits: Gone To Texas Photo.Com

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From This Author Jenny Taylor Moodie

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