RECOMMENDED It is Holiday time in the city and all over the town, plays are opening and running with the holiday theme. Porchlight Music Theatre has brought back its “Live” version of the classic holiday film “Miracle on 34th Street” at Stage 773 ( the former Theatre Building Chicago) to bring this warm story to more families in the Chicago area. They first did this show in 2009 and it appears that this may be for Porchlight what “A Christmas Carol” has become for The Goodman- the holiday treat for young and old. If that is the case, so be it. This is a lovely little show that is true family entertainment.
This is not a musical ,per se, as we are used to with Porchlight, but is rather a story with music. They have taken liberty to bring in lots of familiar holiday tunes throughout the story, in particular as sets change from one scene to another. The opening music by Jon Steinhagen along with the marvelous projections to set the New York by Liviu Pasare truly do set the tone for a wonderful theatrical experience for young and old. The set itself (Ian Zywica) ,is very simple and practical allowing for the entire show to run with no interruptions ( no intermission, about 90 minutes) which is ideal for youngsters and truly keeps the audience into the story and mood. I doubt if there is anyone who is unfamiliar with the story ( the movie plays a lot during the holidays- several versions), but is so, here it is:
It is New York, the Macy’s Holiday Parade and their Santa is drunk. As the co-ordinator frets and tries to think what to do, a white bearded gentleman shows up, in a Santa suit, ready to go. He brings Macy’s a whole new look and brings a new faith to the woman who hired him and her daughter ( they do not believe). The world thinks that this man is insane, but what we learn is that he is not. He is Santa Claus! Or at least, he brings the spirit of Christmas to all who come in contact with him- perhaps that is what this play is truly about- faith !
This year’s production is very close to what was done last year. They have added some projections and when Santa has his first meeting with the children, a few from the actual audience are added to the stage. Jim Sherman, who makes a marvelous Kris Kringle works these kids very well and manages to relax them and their families and in some cases, even get a laugh or two. He has taken on this role with the same heart and soul that he brought to his five years in “A Christmas Schooner” at The old Bailiwick Theater. The lovely Christa Buck returns as Doris Walker, his employer and newcomer Nicole Karkazis takes on the important role of Susan. Nicole is a delight to watch on stage and her smile will make you do likewise. David Heimann takes on the role of Fred, their neighbor and love interest for Doris and after that, the ensemble is what makes this show truly work!
Kelly Hackett,Katharine Cikanek, Jim Heatherly ( his Judge Harper is delightful),Chase McCurdy,Matthew Wilson Miles,Michael Pacas, Lindsey Pearlman,Alex Radtke ( his little role as Thomas Mara jr. is a stitch), Steve Tomlitz as Thomas Mara Sr. ( and others), Hannah Whitlock and Mick Weber as Mr. Macy ( he also does a torrid animal in the opening). As you can see, this is not a large cast, but one made up of talented actors who take on many roles to make this production complete. As I have always said- ensemble is what makes a production work- and this one proves it.
This new version is directed by Christopehr Pazdernik who appears to follow the same ideas as Walter Stearns did in the past, give the audience love and they will return it with the smae. Once again Eugene Dizon is the musical director, but i snot in the pit. This year’s orchestra is conducted by Tom King Clear and the new choreographer is James Beaudry who along with Pazdernik uses the three sided stage to full advantage allowing the audience to have clear and clean sight lines. There is nothing like Live theater and this i sa perfect production for you to use to bring your young ones to for this marvelous experience.
“Miracle” will continue at Stage 773 through January 2nd with performances as follows:
Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m. After the show, kids ( and adults who still believe) are welcome to visit with that special visitor form the North Pole on stage.
Tickets range from $38-$40 ( discounts for students) and can be purchased at the box office located at 1225 West Belmont, by phone at 773-327-5252 or online at www.stage773.com
There are some extra performances during the holidays( December 19th-30th) to learn more visit www.porchlighttheatre.com