Theatre Review: Miracle On 34th Street, Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool starring Caitlin Berry & Tim Parker

Image Source: Robert Day

Miracle On 34th Street

Format: Musical
Genre: Fantasy
Story: Valentine Davis
Book, Music & Lyrics: Meredith Willson
Director: Gemma Bodinetz
Choreographer: Tom Jackson Greaves
Cast: Caitlin Berry, Nicole Deon, Kevin Harvey, Tim Parker, Chloe Pole, Stuart Reid, Mark Rice-Oxley, Liam Tobin & Taylor Walker
Team Reindeers: Emma Kennedy-Rose, Saara Gurjee, Eva Connor & Isaac Lancel- Watkinson
Team Elves: Maddison Thew, Marlis Robson, Romi Hyland-Rylands & Seth Woodason
Understudy For Suzie Walker: Natalie Vaughan
Musicians: George Francis (musical director), Ros Jones, Nick Anderson, Emma Haughton, Niall Mulvoy, Simeon Scheuber-Rush & Alex Smith
Review Date: December 11 2019
Performances: December 7 2019-January 4 2020
Location: Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool
Duration: 150 minutes incl. an interval
Age Rating: 6+

Miracle On 34th Street at the Playhouse Theatre is a charming musical gift to the audiences of Liverpool. If anybody had lost faith in the current climate during the Christmas period, the Playhouse is here to save the day! Their enjoyable, humorous Christmas production of Miracle On 34th Street is guaranteed to raise your Christmas spirit levels off the scale.

Synopsis

Suzie Walker (Maddison Thew) has spent her childhood failing to believe in anything she cannot “see, feel, taste or touch”. Her attitude is enforced by her mother, Doris Walker (Caitlin Berry), who has lost faith in men after Suzie’s dad left the pair just after she was born. The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is about to start, but an inebriated Santa Claus is fired by Doris, and she quickly recruits a passing stranger, Kris Kringle (Tim Parker), as a replacement. Fred Gaily (Stuart Reid), Doris’s neighbour, learns that Suzie is unaware of fairytales and fantasies. Suzie longs for a dad and hopes that Mr. Galey will step up to the role. Kringle is employed by Macy’s as Santa Claus, but he is tired of Christmas being commercialised, and suggests that customers buy their presents from elsewhere if it’s in the best interests of the shopper.

Mr. Macy (Liam Tobin) is extremely impressed with the positive responsive to the new, unintentional merchandising policy, congratulating both Walker and Shellhammer. But after hearing Santa Claus has been sending customers to their main opponent Gimbles, Marvin Shellhammer (Kevin Harvey), the head of the toy department, fires Kris Kringle. Thankfully, Kringle remains an employee at the store, but he runs into trouble when he is sent for an examination. Kris answered all questions correct, yet a crooked Mr. Sawyer (Mark Rice-Oxley) recommends he be dismissed. He is challenged, but Kringle is arrested after Sawyer claims Kris attacked him. Doris attains a hearing for Kringle by offering Gaily as his attorney. From when Doris asks Fred to represent Kringle, it is evident that there is a strong connection between both. Afterwards, as a result of much prompting, Suzie shows Santa Gaily’s picture of the farmhouse with a swing and a cow telling him that is what she really wants for Christmas. In court, Mr. Sawyer tires his hardest to create the idea that Kringle is insane. Gaily and some unexpected contributors fight his case. The musical ends with Doris’ faith restored as she searches for Suzie’s present under the tree, and Walker, Gaily and Suzie embrace.

Analysis

Gemma Bodinetz (director), Olivia Du Monceau (set and costume designer), Tom Jackson Greaves (choreographer) and George Francis (musical director and orchestrator) display an amazing collaboration in the workings of Miracle On 34th Street. From the off-set, the audience are met with the great spectacle of the Macy’s Parade. Jackson Greaves incorporates many styles, including ballet, when choreographing the parade. Astonishing partner work is also added. Jackson Greaves also uses pedestrian-style movement in the piece to create humour. Du Monceau has provided a dome-shaped view of the action, creating the image of a New York City snow globe. The wall then lifted to reveal a levelled set with a backdrop of presents. In the final scene, the dome view returned. George Francis enables audiences to enthral themselves in the storyline often told through song. Caitlin Berry is a great choice as Susan Walker: her rendition of It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas was utterly spectacular and most certainly a highlight of the show.

All members of the company excelled in their inclusion of children in the cast. Again, Jackson Greaves impressed with his choreography for the ensemble children. All the children performed delightfully and were a joy to behold. Maddison Thew executed her character of Susan Walker with true professionalism. She portrays a stark contrast between Suzie’s bold attitude at the beginning and her open attitude towards the end. The audience love Susan Walker throughout. A few flashing lights are to be expected as Mr. Macy is photographed by the press.

Summary

Theatre-lovers from far and wide are in for a magical night with a highly-skilled cast combined with such an inventive company. Miracle On 34th Street at the Playhouse Theatre is a Christmas classic with a 2019 twist. I can assure you that it is not to be missed.

Notes

Target Audience: All Ages
Content: 0/5 – No Content Likely To Offend
Recommendation: Yes
Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding

Miracle On 34th Street runs at the Playhouse Theatre until Saturday January 4 2020. To buy tickets, click here or call 0151 709 4776.