by Matthew Falduto
Cedar Rapids – The Christmas season has arrived. No snow yet, but the music is playing on the radio, the decorations are going up and of course, the shopping is in full swing. Time for some holiday magic on stage, right? If you’re looking for a play to remind you of the magic of Christmas, Theatre Cedar Rapids’ Miracle on 34th Street will certainly do that.
The story is familiar to anyone who saw the classic 1947 movie or perhaps the more recent 1994 version. Little Susan Walker (Alice Cruse) doesn’t believe in Santa Claus because her mother, Doris (Dawn Slezak), told her he’s not real. Doris believes in being practical and realistic and is raising her child in that vein as well. When a department store Santa (Rick Titus) claims he’s the real Santa, both Doris and Susan are challenged by the magic of Christmas.
The show is charming and the TCR actors and designers do a good job bringing it to life. The two main sets – the department store with the Santa chair and the courtroom were wonderfully created by scenic designer Derek Easton. A chair or desk was wheeled on to establish other locations. Unfortunately, some of these transitions slowed down the action and in general the pacing of the show was a little off. A sense of urgency was missing and sometimes that made it hard to stay invested in the action. The lighting was well done, establishing the separate locations well. However some of the actors didn’t seem to know where their lighting box was and some of their lines were said partially in the darkness.
Many of the actors were excellent particularly Cruse as Susan and Titus as Kris Kringle, the man who believes he is Santa Claus. Cruse captured the maturity of Susan very well and then let her kid side show as Susan comes to believe in the magic of Christmas. Titus could very well be Santa Claus so perfectly cast is he. I believed, no question about it. Steve Worthington also did a fine job as the Attorney Mara.
There are many humorous moments that are well played by the actors, particularly Dyanna Davidson’s drunk Mrs. Shellhammer and the delightful Brandon Maynard as young Tommy Mara in a pivotal and funny courtroom scene. The frantic energy of Keith A. Kenel as the villain Mr. Sawyer was also fun to watch.
Based on the reactions from those around me, I’d say the show is a success. One patron noted after the show, “Now I’m in the holiday spirit!” So if you want a touch of that holiday spirit, get yourself to TCR’s production of Miracle on 34th Street.