|'34th Street' not quite miraculous|
|Tuesday, 07 December 2010 12:32|
I doubt if there is anyone with a TV set, a good memory for classic movies or a VHS /DVD player, who has not seen the 1947 film "Miracle on 34th Street." It has become as much a part of our holiday literature as anything by Dickens or Irving Berlin, surviving an attempt to colorize the black and white original, an awkward 1994 technicolor remake and a very short-lived theatrical musical version, "Here's Love," by "Music Man" composer Meredith Willson.
Unwilling to let the original speak for itself, yet another stage version has been available for several years. Adapted by Will Severin, Patricia De Benedetto Snyder and John Vreeke, who unhappily chose to ignore the old edict "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," the play bears the name of the original Valentine Davies novel and the film. It currently is playing through Dec. 19 to very enthusiastic audiences in the Wilson Mainstage Auditorium of the South Bend Civic Theatre. With a very cast of 30-plus, many of whom seem never to have been on stage before and play multiple roles, and a production staff of more than 20, the two hour (plus intermission) production obviously involves a large part of the community which marches through the familiar scenario like a middle school pageant. The musical interludes (attributed to Severin?) consist of familiar carols and holiday pop tunes delivered a cappella by a variety of carolers and inserted to cover the many scene changes. Still to be determined is the identity of the young actress playing the leading role of Susan Walker. Two girls alternate in the part but, as there was no indication of which one was on stage at the performance we attended, I have no idea whether it was Madeline Varga or Natalie Rarick. Whichever, she did a very creditable job
Under the direction of Jewel Abram-Copenhaver, the show includes the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Santa trial and the eventual triumph of faith over fact which, of course, brings together the primary couple and leaves everyone wondering "Who was that bearded man?" Actually it is Dan Johnson, who certainly has the very real beard required for the role of Kris Kringle. In addition to young Susan, credible performances also were delivered by Debbie Grattan-Rarick as Susan's realistic mom Doris; Bill Svelmoe as Doris' boyfriend Fred Gailey; Bill Johnson as prosecuting attorney Thomas Mara; and Nicole Brinkman Reeves as a timid secretary who definitely believes. The aisles are used frequently throughout the production: as a parade route and as courtroom seating to which trial onlookers carry their own metal folding chairs off and on several times. During the former, large amounts of shredded tape are dumped on the audience, which also is snowed upon during later scenes. Obviously being included in this way is a plus for the large audiences which have already required the addition of at least one more performance to the scheduled lineup.
"MIRACLE ON 34th STREET" plays at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and Dec. 15-18 and 3 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 19. For information and reservations, call 234-1112. .
|Last Updated on Friday, 15 April 2011 22:05|