Originally produced on Broadway as Here’s Love, Meredith Willson’s musical adaptation of the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street is steeped in nostalgia.
The mysterious Kris Kringle saves Macy’s Thanksgiving parade when their Santa Claus arrives drunk, but his insistence that he is in fact the real Santa gets him into trouble. But his warmth and love for everybody begins to melt even the most sceptical of hearts – and the commercialism of Christmas.
The score is beautifully rendered by George Francis and his six-piece band but, despite Francis’ sumptuous orchestrations, Willson’s music is underwhelming. By combining the two most memorable songs – It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas and Pine Cones and Holly Berries – it undersells them.
There are some fine voices among the cast, most notably Caitlin Berry and Stuart Reid, who play Macy’s Santa-doubting Doris Walker and Fred Gailey, the ex-marine who sets about making her believe. Tim Parker is a perfect Kris Kringle and there are also several fine child actors, especially Emma Kennedy-Rose, debuting as Doris’ stoical daughter Susan (played at alternate performances by Maddison Thew).
Olivia du Monceau’s set consists of a stack of ribbon-tied gift boxes growing out of Macy’s lobby, and director Gemma Bodinetz unwraps their contents with all the magic of Christmas Day. It’s an old fashioned show, and it lacks a bit of pizzazz, but it’s a real winter heart-warmer.