Review: MIRACLE ON 34TH ST: A LIVE MUSICAL RADIO PLAY HERALDS IN THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT at FreeFall Theatre

This nostalgic piece of Holiday magic comes to life through December 24, 2023.

By: Dec. 04, 2023
Review: MIRACLE ON 34TH ST: A LIVE MUSICAL RADIO PLAY HERALDS IN THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT at FreeFall Theatre

“Imagination is a place all by itself...”

“Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to...”

Miracle on 34th Street is an American Christmas comedic/drama from 1947 that was produced by 20th Century Fox. Based on the story by by Valentine Davies, the film was directed by George Seaton and features Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn. Winning three Academy Awards, Miracle on 34th Street takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, and the events that transpire when a Department store Santa Claus claims to be the real Santa.

The plot covers the events when Kris Kringle discovers a man who is hired to play Santa is intoxicated prior to the events of the parade. Having brought the info to the attention of one Ms. Doris Walker, she in turn invites Kris Kringle to assume the role. Kris does so well in the appointment that is soon offered a position as Santa Claus for Macy’s Department Store.

While on the job, Kris directs a shopper to another competing retailer to fulfill her child’s Christmas wish. While that in turn should cause a problem, the customer in question proclaimed to become a valued Macy’s shopper all thanks to the honesty of their newly found employee in one Kris Kringle.

Fred Gailey, who is Doris’ neighbor takes Susan to see Santa Claus. In doing so, Susan becomes shaken with the events she witnesses between Kris and another child. Doris, asks Kris to tell Susan that he is not Santa, even though Kris insists he truly is.

Doris is concerned, and decides to fire Kris. In doing so, her boss R.H. Macy decides to incentivise his return with bonuses. Then following a “psychological evaluation,” to prove competency, Kris is once again asked to be dismissed of his duties as Santa. Susan shows a picture to Kris of a house she saw in a magazine, and wishes it to be the only gift she desires.

Furthermore a trial begins following an incident with an umbrella, and brandishing the safety of customers. Fred Gailey is able to prove without a shadow of a doubt following a mail delivery, that Kris Kringle is the real Santa Claus. In doing so, winning over the affections of Doris, and Susan/Doris/Fred receive the house from Santa Klaus, that Susan herself asked for.

Our friends at freeFall Theatre have invited us in to witness a different telling of this beloved holiday classic. Adapted from the 1947 Lux Radio broadcast by Lance Arthur Smith, Miracle on 34th Street: a Live Musical Radio Play is presented to audience members and freeFall subscribers in full color and grandeur. Complete with live “Applause,” real radio jingles and a foley artist providing sound effects, its as if the audience is sitting inside an old fashioned radio, or a fly on the wall in a studio doing the recording. I’m sure some of us remember sitting in front of the radio growing up awaiting the stories to come on, that take us to an escape for even just a short while. While you were listening, did you ever wonder what it might look like to be a part of the magic of the program you were listening to?

Our friends at freeFall, under the esteemed direction of Matthew McGee have assembled a top-notch company of performers that allow us to be a part of all the holiday magic. From top to bottom, the holiday spirit explodes off the stage with all its glitter and glory and sounds of the season.

A whopping 30 musical numbers in two acts for just under two hours, makes this Holiday classic a “can’t miss main event this season!” Charming and beautiful to watch, pleasing to the ear, and filling you with all the holiday joy of this beloved classic. That is one of the most compelling things about this production, is the ability to squeeze in so much of the storyline in a short time frame. Fans of the story will be in awe, and never feel like they missed one event of a story so close to their hearts.

Larry Alexander as Wallace Ainsley, et al. is wonderful here. He has great comedic timing, and wonderful stage presence. Helping to bring to life some memorable characters, and is a perfect addition to the Quintet telling the story.

Jonathan Harrison as Grady Williams, et al is magnetic. His vocals light up the room, and he is a wonderful addition to the Quintet. His moments with Hillary Scales-Lewis and Mya Simpkins will fill your heart with joy. His Fred Gailey is right on point and would give John Payne a serious run for his money.

Hilary Scales-Lewis as Cordelia Ragsdale, et al is beautifully captured here. Always a breath of fresh-air anytime she is onstage, I move mountains to experience her exceptional work time and again. Her Doris Walker is magical, and her vocals are unmatched in this arena. Truly a beautiful performance, by an effervescent and captivating performer.

Julia Rifino as Olivia Glatt, et al is exceptional. Her comedic moments go unmatched here, and her witty charisma takes the events of the night in a chokehold and never lets go. I love watching Julia perform for she is always consistently in the moment from start to finish, never faltering. A consummate professional in the highest regard. No stranger to the Bay Area stages, and often thought of as a Renaissance Woman, freeFall audiences should be mighty proud, as I know I am to watch her work.

As Kristofer Van Lisberg, et al. Joe Lauck is endearing, and wonderful to watch. Having last seen his work in 2019’s The Lion in Winter, its wonderful to see him back on freeFall’s stage. He dives into the misunderstood nature of Kris and allows the audience to grow with his character throughout the events of the story.

Gracie Demarco, et al. is wonderfully portrayed by Mya Simpkins. A budding young performer full of heart, and she allows us to be swept away in moments, especially with Hillary’s Doris Walker and Joe’s Kris. I am excited to see where her journey takes her down the road as she grows in her craft.

Michael Raabe as Lester Sinclair, Music Director and Foley Artist, works musical magic here. Getting the most out of his performers, while accompanying all the musical moments in the piece, and providing unique sound effects to fill out the story line, is such a joy to experience. Always great to have Michael on the keys.

Director Matthew McGee provides beautiful staging for the events of the story, perfectly timed and well thought out from start to finish. He has a clear vision that allows the story to be completely captivating and helping the audience along thorough the plight of its characters. Costume Design by Eric Davis allows the characters to assume their own unique personalities fitting perfectly within the period of the story. Set and Lighting Design by Tom Hansen, perfectly evokes a radio station of yesteryear, and works well to help the story flow seamlessly, while allowing the characters to comfortably move about the space. Sound Design by Nathan Doyle comfortably fits within the confines of the story and allows the events to continue with ease.

Matthew McGee and team have assembled a top-notch rendering of a perennial Christmas favorite, and allowed its audiences to be transported back to 1947 and the time and events of the story, all while being told in a unique way. With wonderfully presented musical moments and a mashup of carols following the bows, Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play is the perfect Holiday treat for the whole family. Allow you and yours to be fully transported to a time when life was simpler, and the joy of family and loved ones is what truly matters most. These beloved characters come to life right before your very eyes. Do not wait, as tickets and availability to this classic tale are moving fast, and like Santa will be gone in the blink of an eye. Be sure to visit www.freefalltheatre.com for tickets. So make your list, and check it twice, and be sure to include tickets to Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play, as the perfect gift for your family today!

Also find out how you can ensure the continuation of magical programming being offered at freeFall Theatre all year long, by becoming a season subscriber, which is now easier than ever before! Visit the website, or speak with a staff member for more information.

With freeFall Theatre Company, you can “simply escape awhile...” you’ll be mighty glad you did!

“I like to pretend I can see an entire world in each snowflake...”

PHOTO CREDIT: JOSEPH MICHAEL KENNETH




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