Bridge House Theatre, London – until 23 December 2017
This cosy festive treat is enough to convince even the most cynical to believe in Father Christmas.
Presented as a live musical radio play, the story of Miracle on 34th Street is celebrating its 70th anniversary in this genuinely heartfelt production which is charmingly inventive throughout.
For those who aren’t familiar with the story, Miracle on 34th Street follows Doris Walker and her daughter Susan as they attempt to discover whether the elderly gentleman who is department store Macy’s unexpected Santa is, in fact, the real-life Santa Claus.
Guy Retallack’s cosy and intimate production is wonderfully imaginative – helped by the constant use of authentic sound effects and reliance on props, proving that a lavish set isn’t always necessary to carry the story forward. Everything really seems authentic and down-to-earth.
By setting it as though it is a live radio broadcast (complete with advertisements), the audience feel completely involved from beginning to end, allowing them to really concentrate on the story and characters, while using their imagination to create the setting. This is particularly clever as there are lots of references to using imagination in the story as Kris Kringle teaches Susan all about the power of imagination leading to a funny moment in which the characters practise their best monkey skills.
Musically, there is a great mixture of original songs and lovely jazz sounding arrangements of some classic Christmas songs by Jon Lorenz, that are cleverly interwoven into the story – such as ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ (appropriately used as Kris Kringle goes to confront Granville Sawyer – ending in assault) and ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ that really adds to the atmosphere.
Perhaps though it is a show that could use just a little bit more space on stage as although the cast move around each other with great ease, there is the occasional moment in which some of the movements look very tight and restrictive. It could also use a little more pace, particularly in the second act, which is slowed down by the numerous ‘advertisements’ which are great but do tend to disrupt the flow of the story slightly.
However, all of the cast are fabulous with Jamie Ross leading the way as the Announcer, keeping good control over proceedings and brings a whole new meaning to multi-tasking throughout. Richard Albrecht as Kris Kringle is warm, instantly likeable and believable with a suitable twinkle in his eye that gives an enjoyable performance to watch, while Emily Carewe as Susan captures the character’s youthfulness without going over the top and with a great sense of humour.
Those who are even slightly cynical about Christmas and the existence of Father Christmas need to see this production that really melts the heart and leaves you beaming with happiness. Embrace your inner child, use your imagination and come along and see this lovely festive treat.
Miracle on 34th Street continues to play at the Bridge House Theatre until the 23rd December. For more information visit: https://www.bhtheatre.com/whatson/index.php