Bridge House Theatre, London – until 23 December 2017
I must admit that I had never heard of Penge until I received my invite to review the new production of Miracle on 34th Street at the Bridge House Theatre. Somehow it had slipped off my radar but I can now say that I’ll definitely be visiting again and will be recommending people to take a trip to this gem of a theatre, above the Bridge House pub.
I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter, more heart-warming show to welcome me to the Bridge House. Miracle on 34th Street tells the story of a young girl, Susan who doesn’t believe in Father Christmas until she meets a mystical Santa Claus hired by her mother at Macy’s. Her perspective and that of those around her begins to change as we follow this magical story which lights the imaginations and warms the hearts of everyone watching.
Adapted from the 1947 Lux Radio Broadcast, this production, directed by Guy Retallack, is staged as a live radio broadcast which is extremely interesting to watch. As the announcer and musical director, Jamie Ross leads Jon Lorenz’s fetching score of original songs and new arrangements of Christmas classics with precision and draws the audience in from the moment he gives us the all clear to cheer and laugh to our heart’s content.
Retallack’s direction makes the piece feel immersive but not conceited. We see the actors ‘behind the scenes’ when they introduce themselves and joke around with one another when they’re sat down, but the performances are top notch and it feels like a well rounded theatrical piece. The various ads about Penge and use of sounds effects are hilarious and very cleverly done.
The heart and soul of this show are of course the seven-member cast. Ross is versatile and brilliant as he splits himself between being the Foley artist, accompanist, singer and actor! Amy Reitsma is extremely amusing in her various characters, from little children, to a receptionist; each role is unique, witty and she seamlessly transitions from accent to accent. Equally as versatile in his roles is Lewis Rae who gets laugh after laugh as he portrays a number of characters, including the hilariously uptight psychiatrist.
As Fred Gailey, Ellis Dackombe is charming and likeable with some stunning vocal moments. His chemistry with Lowenna Melrose as Doris is touching and they bounce off one another very well. Lowenna’s transition from the straight-laced divorcee to the festive woman who loves and believes in Santa Claus is lovely to see unfold and she gives the role plenty of heart as does Emily Carewe as her daughter, Susan. Emily is suitably childlike whilst humourously grown up at the same time. As her belief grows, we see the joys Christmas really can bring to children around the world.
As our main man, Kris Kringle, Richard Albrecht is fantastically mystical and magical… I began to believe he really is Santa! The tight-knit cast work brilliantly together and its joyous to watch them perform.
I can’t find a reason why you shouldn’t see this show. It’s festive, warm and provides the well needed break we all crave during these somewhat trying times! If you want to have your heart warmed and your imagination opened then get along to South East London and enjoy this sparkling, festive show!
Miracle on 34th Street runs at the Bridge House Theatre until December 23rd.