Theatre Mirror Reviews "Miracle on 34th Street"


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2013 by Tony Annicone

"Miracle on 34th Street"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Ocean State Theatre Company's holiday presentation is the New England Premiere of the musical adaptation of the popular favorite "Miracle on 34th Street". The musical follows a white-bearded gentleman who claims to be the real Santa Claus. He not only fosters camaraderie between Macy's and Gimbel's, he convinces a divorced, cynical single mother, her somber daughter and the entire state of New York that Santa Claus is no myth. This heart-warming musical written by Meredith Willson who also wrote "The Music Man", is filled with humor, spectacle and delightful songs, making it a wonderful holiday treat for the whole family. Director/ choreographer Barbara Hartwig and musical director Esther Zabinski chose the best performers for these roles and infuse them with high energy to pull them off for the enthusiastic audience to thoroughly enjoy.

Barbara obtains topnotch acting from the cast and her dance numbers really shine. They include tap, ballet, kick line and soft shoe to name a few. Esther leads her excellent six piece orchestra, plays lead keyboards and taught the cast the pretty score of the show. The New York skyline set by Lisa Pegnato is very impressive and the lighting of it by David Sexton is excellent. For anyone unfamiliar with this well known tale, Doris is an event planner at Macy's while she is organizing the Thanksgiving Day Parade, her daughter, Susan meets an ex-marine, Fred Gaily, who tries to rid her of her realistic outlook on life by taking her to see Santa. Kris manages to win over Susan while love blooms between Fred and Doris. However the second act sees Kris appearing before the New York Supreme Court to prove to the court and the world that Santa Claus does exist. The moral of the story is faith is something that feels very real, yet it is something you can't see, touch, smell or taste. It is something you must believe in.

Richard Koons is terrific as Kris Kringle. He brings a great deal of warmth to this role. Richard also has a strong tenor voice and sings several numbers including "Here's Love", which turns into a huge song and dance extravaganza, "It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas", with Doris and Shellhammer and later in Act 2 with Susan, and "Expect Things to Happen". He is absolutely magical in this role. Gorgeous brunette Megan Wheeler as Doris, shines in this role. She plays  the cynical mother who thinks she will never be happy again. Megan sings "Arm in Arm" with Susan, "You Don't Know" and "Nothing in Common" before she makes her decision about Fred. Jeffrey Funaro as Fred Gaily, tries to bring joy into Susan's life. He has a strong baritone voice and he sings "My Wish" with little Susan, "Look, Little Girl" to Doris and "She Hadda Go Back" with the Marine buddies. This latter song is reminiscent of "Sadder but Wiser Girl" from "Music Man". Brigid Fitzgerald as Susan, delivers a heartfelt performance as this little girl who wants to have a family of her own. Her insistence on doubting the existence of Santa Claus must be altered to save the day for Kris Kringle. Will Susan win a family of her own? Brigid's strong voice is heard "Arm in Arm", "My Wish" and "It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas". She really shines at the end of Act 1 when she calls her mother a dame. I last reviewed Brigid as Brigitta in "The Sound of Music" and this is one more feather in her cap.

Other comic performers include Matt DaSilva as Shellhammer, who displays his voice in "The Plastic Alligator", "It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas" and in the group number, "My State". Matt is hilarious in this role, as he constantly faints at the mention of Gimbel's, sings the patter song. Mark S. Cartier as R.H.Macy shows off his voice in "That Man Over There" is Santa Claus. He plays this tough as nails man who becomes to believe in Kris' philosophy. Mark is very comic in this role. He also leads "My State" about Kansas to convince the judge to understand Kris' plight. Daniel Larson as Judge Martin who must make the decision whether Santa Claus really exists or not. He does an excellent job once again. I last reviewed him as the Man in the Chair in "Drowsy Chaperone" at RIC in 2012. Little Jerry Carino plays Tommy Mara Jr. whose testimony at the trial makes or breaks it for Kris Kringle. Kudos to the singing and dancing chorus. So for a new Christmas time musical treat for the whole family, be sure to catch "Miracle on 34th Street, the Musical" at Ocean State Theatre Company before time runs out.

"Miracle on 34th Street" (4 - 29 December)
@ 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, WARWICK RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide