Review Porchlight's "Miracle on 34 Street": Classic Musical Christmas Card!

Porchlight Theatre presents

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MIRACLE ON 34th STREET
At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont
Based on the novel by Valentine Davies
Adapted by Patricia Di Benedetto Snyder, Will Severin, John Vreeke
Holiday music opening by Jon Steinhagen

Musical direction by Eugene Dizon 
Directed by Christopher Pazdernik
Fridays and Saturdays at 8p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30p.m.
Thru January 2nd
Buy Tickets
Running Time:  Ninety minutes with no intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

'Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus', right down 34th Street in NYC.   Porchlight Theatre presents MIRACLE ON 34th STREET, adapted from the award-winning 1947 film.  'Santa Claus is coming to town' with a flask.  At the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, the 'grandma got run over by a reindeer' Santa requires a 'Father Christmas' replacement.  The 'Jingle Bell' substitute nails the part and is rewarded with big elf permanency at the department store.   The only problem is 'Santa Baby' thinks he IS Kris Kringle.  To avoid a 'Blue Christmas', 'Jolly Old St. Nicholas' must convince a judge, a girl, and a mother that he IS 'Little Saint Nick.'  It's a 'O Come all ye faithful' test of belief in the Claus.  Porchlight Theatre condenses a holiday classic into a musical Christmas card with MIRACLE ON 34th STREET.

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Under the direction of Christopher Pazdernik, the familiar story is paced tight with Yuletide caroling.  The action strips down to vital elements and then is dressed up with musical scene transitions.  Betty Boop, Mighty Mouse, and other hot air balloons float past on the parade route.  On the back wall, Liviu Pasare uses video projections to magically transport back to 1940's NYC.   The ambiance is enhanced by vintage apparel by Costume Designer Jana Anderson.  In particular, the Santa suit is old-world elegant adding to the mystery of Jim Sherman's (Kris Kringle) true identity.  Sherman brings the holiday cheer with a twinkle and simplistic sensibility.  The entire cast entertains with a recognizable gifts exchange.   Some presents, more memorable than others, are a feisty Mick Weber (Mr. Macy), comical Jim Heatherly (Judge Harper),and an inspirational Hannah Whitlock (Maryke).  Throughout the show, Whitlock maintains the joyous look of someone who got everything she ever wanted.    

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Not to be the 'Grinch who stole Christmas' but the speed bump at Stage 773 continues to be acoustics.  'Do you hear what I hear?' Even hidden off stage, the musicians overpower the solo and duets with 'Joy to the World' enthusiasm.  During full chorus songs, it's 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' perfect.  It's not just the singing either.  Some of the dialogue is NOT so 'It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.' Pazdernik has staged some characters delivering their lines with their back to the audience.  It's 'Silent Night' muffled!  ('I'm dreaming...' that Santa brings Stage 773 a better sound system this Christmas.)  Still, Porchlight Theatre knows how to 'Deck the Halls' for a family 'Happy Holiday.'  At the end of each performance, the audience is invited to share a 'Grown-up Christmas List' with the big guy.  Since 'It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!'  start celebrating the '12 Days of Christmas' with holiday theatre gifts!  Sure to melt your 'Frosty' heart, MIRACLE ON 34th STREET is a 'Holly Jolly Christmas' on Belmont Avenue.

Production photography courtesy of Johnny Knight.

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