BWW Review: MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET: A LIVE MUSICAL RADIO PLAY, Old Joint Stock Theatre
The Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham continues to push the boundaries of originality with their programme. Their Christmas offering is no different with live musical radio play, Miracle On 34th Street, currently bringing festive cheer to the fringe venue.
The cherished story remains true to the one that we know and love, whereby a department store's 'Santa Claus' claims that he is the real Kris Kringle and, by making a believer out of a young girl, a Christmas miracle is achieved.
The black box space has been converted into radio station KSDMT, with the crowd posing as the live studio audience. There are five vintage microphones arced around the space and the seven-strong cast - all in 1940s dress - roam from one to another, keeping the action seamless.
The Announcer (also Musical Director) takes centre stage behind a piano, acting as an audio console. Either side are a series of props, which allow the performers to replicate actions such as closing a door, laying a table or rustling papers.
Directors Karl Steele and Adam Lacey have done a remarkable job in ensuring that the material lifts off the page and embraces you like a warm hug. It could so easily become stale due to the lack of visual backdrop, but the script and musical numbers speak for themselves.
The actors remain onstage for the duration of the show, all with multiple roles. Each person is essential to the overall product and the camaraderie between them is incredibly endearing. Bradley Walwyn is a natural talent, and plays both the warmth and authoritative nature of a character with equal strength. Sam Carlyle and Ellamae Cieslik's harmonies together are dreamy and, when adding in the men's vocals, are utter perfection.
Kerry Frater is an excellent Kris Kringle, gently spoken but a big presence. Anton Tweedale is a master of voices and should be applauded for his ease in flitting between them. Danny Joseph is a jack-of-all-trades: playing the piano, singing and performing several characters. Millie Taylor, playing Susan at this performance, appears confident and peels back the layers of the character's belief extremely well.
Festive, fun and joyful. I believe!