December 5, 2023
Review: Solid 'Miracle on 34th Street' from Artic Playhouse
Joe Siegel READ TIME: 2 MIN.
"Miracle on 34th Street" is the beloved classic story about a department store Santa who may be for real. The classic 1947 movie starred Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood, and Maureen O'Hara and was later re-made in 1994.
The Arctic Playhouse's production features solid performances from the large cast and polished direction by Bryan Sawyer. Several of the actors appeared in last year's production.
Terry Simpson ("The Hatmaker's Wife") once again plays Kris Kringle, a cheerful and benevolent man who is hired to work at New York's famed Macy's.
In the process, he befriends single mother Doris Walker (Rachel Bartlett) and her young daughter Susan (nicely played by Aubrey Cordeiro). Meanwhile, the store's owner, R.H. Macy (Scott Conti) has a rivalry with another department store owner, Mr. Gimbal. Doris' friendly neighbor Fred Gailey (Daniel J. Holmes), a lawyer, ends up representing Kringle in court.
The joy of the show was the personality of the performers, who inhabit their roles with high energy and comic charm.
Simpson is believable and engaging as Kringle. The show succeeds because of his personality and wit.
Rose Racine ("Lie, Cheat and Genuflect") was effectively chilling as the malevolent Miss Sawyer, an evil woman more concerned with profits than people.
Brian Lamothe ("A Christmas Carol") earned some of the biggest laughs as the somewhat befuddled Mr. Shellhammer, the Macy's manager. Lamothe, who also plays Judge Harper, has an offbeat vocal delivery and superb comic timing.
Jeffrey Massery ("Lie, Cheat and Genuflect") is also quite amusing as store elf Alfred and as the attorney prosecuting Kringle at his trial.
Bartlett and Holmes ("The 39 Steps") have an appealing chemistry in their scenes together. Holmes also wrote the adaptation (based on a novel by Valentine Davies).
Brayden Mottram is absolutely charming as young Mortimer, testifying on behalf of Kringle at his trial.
Deb Belanger was wonderfully acerbic as Mortimer's Mom and Mrs. Mara.
John Braica and Bob Gerold's attractive set design and Nancy Spirito's period costumes deserve praise as well.
"Miracle on 34th Street" celebrates hope and generosity in a cruel world.
Almost everyone has doubts about Kris Kringle's claims that he is Santa Claus, except for young Susan. She never gives up on her dreams. The ending of this show is heartwarming and serves as a cheerful gift for the holidays.
"Miracle on 34th Street" runs through December 17. The Arctic Playhouse. 1249 Main Street, West Warwick, RI. For tickets, call 401-573-3443 or visit thearcticplayhouse.com.
Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.