It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the New Alex Theatre, where the beloved festive classic Miracle on 34th Street has been brought to life in a stage musical.
The story opens on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1950s New York City. Susan Walker, a cynical six year old, is befriended by her new neighbour Fred Gaily, who takes her to the Parade to show her Santa riding his sleigh, despite her insistence that there’s no such thing as Santa Claus. At the same time, Susan’s mother Doris, who works at Macy’s, is forced to hire a stranger named Kris Kringle to step into the Santa suit at the last minute.
Kringle has an immediate impact on the toy department at Macy’s, charming the children and parents alike, and even recommending other stores where shoppers can find the most elusive items on their Christmas list. But his kindly presence is interrupted when a misunderstanding with a disgruntled colleague leads to his arrest. Kringle is committed to an institution for his repeated claims that he is the one and only Santa Claus. Fred, a newly qualified lawyer who has fallen for Doris, agrees to represent Kringle, and the hearing soon turns into a trial in which the US Supreme Court must decide, once and for all, whether there is such a thing as Santa Claus.
This production of the 1963 Broadway musical, inspired by the 1947 film of the same name, is brought to the stage by BMOS Musical Theatre Company, who make the most of their large supporting cast, filling the parade and toy department scenes with exuberant energy. The show’s most famous tune, ‘It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas’, penned by Meredith Wilson (The Music Man), is woven throughout the production alongside lesser-known standout numbers like ‘Look Little Girl’ and ‘Here’s Love’.
Stewart Keiller is pitch-perfect as Kringle, all avuncular charm and gentle wit, while Willow Heath imbues the deeply serious little Susan with just enough sweetness to avoid being cloying. Jo Smith and Matthew Collins are also on top form as Doris and Fred respectively, trading quick, clipped barbs like a couple from an old Hollywood film. And Mark Shaun Walsh steals every scene he’s in as Mr Shellhammer, the highly strung Macy’s employee who provides much of the show’s comic relief.
Performing at the New Alex Theatre until Saturday 18th November, Miracle on 34th Street is the perfect feelgood show to get you into the Christmas spirit.