Review: Broadway Palm charms with delightful, heartwarming 'Miracle on 34th Street'

The cast of 'Miracle on 34th Street.'

Photo courtesy Broadway Palm

The cast of "Miracle on 34th Street."

IF YOU GO

What: Musical version of the classic 1947 film about a Macy's Santa who believes he's the real thing

When: Tuesday through Sunday evenings with selected matinées through Dec. 25.

Where: 1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers (in Royal Palm Square)

Cost: $35 to $55

Information: 239-278-4422 or broadwaypalm.com

Something Else: Ticket prices include meal & show; show-only tickets available

On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog

— It's a "Miracle." It's a sight to see. Oh, the way Broadway Palm makes Christmas sing.

Even on Black Friday, with its tales of rampant consumerism and greed run amuck, the simple story of "Miracle on 34th Street" put me in a Christmas mood. I'm betting it will warm the cockles of your heart too.

Simple. Delightful. Beautiful. Magical. If you believe in "Miracles," this the one family destination that should be on your holiday list.

The musical condenses the 1947 movie, called the "best Christmas film ever." The longer second half, with the courtroom scenes, is tighter; it features just a handful of songs - but loads of drama. But Kris Kringle, Susan, the daffy Shellhammer and Mr. Macy are still there!

Faced with such a familiar property, director Paul Bernier goes for glitz, glamour and heart. Lots of heart. The show practically yanks heartstrings right through the back wall of the stage. Cheery, effervescent choreography from Kerry Lambert and Galloway Stevens in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade sequence and the Toy Ballet capture the simple wonder and joy of the holidays.

"Miracle" persists in the imagination not because it is a deep, thoughtful drama but because it drills into the longing we have to believe in impossible fairy tales that really do come true, in special moments, in gorgeous snowfalls and celebrated friends. Bernier and his cast lift these ideas, celebrate them and float them out into the night like dreams of sugarplums dancing in the heads of a sated audience.

Stevens leads a charming ensemble as lawyer Fred Gaily. His winsome, devil-may-care attitude gives lightness to the entire piece. Avery King dazzles as moppet Susan Walker (she alternates with Allarie Daniel Kovacs). King and Stevens have the perfect on-stage relationship; hearts will melt as she calls him "Uncle Fred."

Craig Smith nearly steals the show as hapless toy department manager Marvin Shellhammer. One of the night's best, most comedic scenes comes as he and four intimidated employees sing a radio jingle about "The Plastic Alligator;" the store ordered 7,000 too many and must dispose of them. A recurring fainting spell at the mention of Macy's rival Gimbel's brings huge laughs.

Jim Heffernan projects gravitas as store owner R.H. Macy; wait for his rousing number in the courtroom. Erin Romero shines in a brief scene as a put-upon secretary, Miss Crookshank.

Robert Summers brings a subdued, humble vibe to his Kris Kringle. The gentle old man portrayal reinforces the humanity of the role - and farther elevates the powerful emotion behind the piece. Christmas isn't about presents, consumerism or "things." It is about the "lovely intangibles."

On the more tangible side, James Wolk's set amazes. Fashioned as a set of building blocks on rotation panels that represent sidewalk, Macy's store, sidewalk and more, it radiates the same childlike whimsy of a living room filled with wrapping paper ripped-off presents, shrieking children and parents smiling on the couch. Chris McCleary's lighting design frames the smallest moments perfectly.

John P. White's costumes - especially the parade and toy sequences - feel joyful and elegant. Extra credit to stage manager Jayar Garcia and Sean Gorski for smooth transitions between scenes with the mammoth set and hundreds of costume pieces - and a rascally handful of children to boot!

Do you believe in miracles? I didn't - until I succumbed to the magic of "Miracle on 34th Street." Saccharine charm, cheerful kids, a jolly old St. Nick and acres of happy smiling families can't be wrong. Leave your cares at the door and believe in the magic of Christmas.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Email me, csilk@naplesnews.com. Email me, csilk@naplesnews.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.

© 2012 gonaples.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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