Miracle on 34th Street:
A Live Musical Radio Play
Bridge House Theatre
Reviewed – 29th November 2017
“Richard Albrecht’s portrayal of Kris Kringle is absolutely spot-on I refuse to believe he isn’t actually Santa Claus”
Do you believe in Santa Claus? Experience Guy Retallack’s production of this festive tale and I have no doubt that you will.
The show is framed as a radio play within a play, with the six actors seated in a row at the back of the stage. Set in a recording studio the cast shares two microphones at the front, but this does not cause the performers to become static. In fact, their ability to weave around each other and perform energetic numbers around the microphone stands is what makes the show so uniquely entertaining.
The creative team have achieved so much with what is on face value, so little in terms of staging a Christmas spectacle. Props (Fiona Martin) are minimal and used mainly to indicate changes in character or provide “radio” sound effects. There are clever touches like a flashing ‘ON AIR’ sign and a station logo on the backdrop. Lighting (Joseph Ed Thomas) is used well to transition between busy scenes and more intimate conversations.
It’s hard to pick a standout member of the cast when everyone’s performances were of such a high standard. Richard Albrecht’s portrayal of Kris Kringle is absolutely spot-on I refuse to believe he isn’t actually Santa Claus. Jamie Ross deserves high praise for his role as the Announcer and as the Musical Director. He narrates, provides sounds effects and musical accompaniment, with a voice and mannerisms so period appropriate he seems to have stepped out of a time machine and on to the stage. Lowenna Melrose (Doris Walker) and Ellis Dackombe (Fred Gailey) are powerful performers with excellent chemistry as the romantic leads. All the cast members take on more than one role, with Amy Reitsma delivering a wide range of characters with equal brilliance.
The musical numbers were impressive and helped to quicken the pace of a dialogue heavy piece. Carols are given a 1940s makeover with original songs provided by Jon Lorenz. Emily Carewe’s (Susan Walker) rendition of a number about believing in Kris Kringle is a particularly touching moment.
Personal highlights were the West-Side Story inspired version of ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ during a tense confrontation scene, the 1940s-esque radio adverts for local businesses (shout-out to the Bluebelle Café!), and a musical ode to the US Postal service.
A perfect balance of heart-warming and entertaining, this show was so brilliant I forgot it wasn’t actually being transmitted to the nation!
Reviewed by Ella McCarron
Photography by Nick Rutter
Miracle on 34th Street
is at the Bridge House Theatre until 23rd December