ASHLAND — Looking to get in the holiday spirit?
It’s a bit corny, often predictable and sometimes the singing is a bit off-key. But those elements don’t prevent “Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play,” from achieving its purpose — celebrating the spirit of Christmas, believing in Santa Claus and an ever-lasting reality that the, yes, the holidays bring hope and joy.
Playing through Dec. 31 at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre, “Miracle” is a sentimental tearjerker. It’s a story most people know because of the classic 1947 film that starred Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and a very young Natalie Wood. As a newfound friend at my table pondered while waiting for the play to begin, “I wonder how it’ll be without Natalie Wood?”
Adapted from Jon Lorenz’ Lux Radio Broadcast, “Miracle” features a delightful cast that replicates the original and adds a few shake-jingle-and-jangle touches. There’s a sprinkling of original music, musical jingles that tickle the memories of a long-past era when families gathered around their radios, and peppy versions of “Deck the Halls,” “Good King Wenceslas” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
The tale revolves around a Macy’s department store Santa who insists he’s the real Kris Kringle and is concerned about the commercialization of Christmas. Convincing others, including Doris Walker and her precocious daughter Susan, that he’s the real thing is a challenge. He gets support from Fred Galley, an up-and-coming attorney who tries to make his case in believing in the unbelievable to Susan and Doris. It takes getting them to become members of the “imagine-nation” to freeing Kringle, who’s been taken into custody as a nut case, so that he can make his Christmas Eve rounds.
It’s a challenging play because the story is told by actors in a live radio broadcast with the Cabaret audience effectively serving as the live studio audience. Galloway Stevens, who’s become the Cabaret’s most versatile actor, is off-stage this time, serving as the director.
The on-stage “Miracle” features Michael Hume, taking a break from the neighboring Oregon Shakespeare Festival, as Kris Kringle. Taking the Maureen O’Hara role as Doris is Katie Worley Beck while Jake Delaney is Fred. Other cast members include Andy Hudson, Sarah Winslow, Andy Hudson and the often hilarious Courtney Crawford.
And what about the Natalie Wood substitute? Splitting the role are Jocelyn Smith and Cameron Weiland, seventh and sixth grade students. My tablemate, like the rest of the sold-out performance, was more than satisfied.
“Miracle on 34th St.” is a play that makes it easy to believe to believe in miracles.