Miracle On 34th Street
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: January 2 2020
Performances: December 7 2019-January 4 2020
Location: Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool
Duration: 150 minutes incl. an interval
Age Rating: 6+
Miracle On 34th Street is about to complete its run at Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre. This is a new one on me, and perhaps some of the audience though good to see the theatre nearly packed, including plenty of children and young people. And interesting to be a fly on the wall later tonight, considering there may be quite a few frank and open discussions. Because the heart of the show depends on whether or not you believe in You Know Who.
Soldier turned lawyer, Fred Gaily’s good deed for the day hands him a lot more than he could ever have expected. He takes his new neighbour’s daughter, Susie Walker, to see Macy’s parade where Santa takes pride of place. Not for this little girl, whose hard working, cynical mother has taught her not to believe in things you can’t ‘see, feel, taste or touch’; it’s Doris Walker’s job to hire somebody to play Santa. But although Kris Kringle is a resounding success, he ends up in court, where Fred takes on the job of defending him.
Design was captivating, from costume to staging, the latter being a nicely balanced mixture of boxes, big and small, the practical blending with the packaging: ribbons, bows and glitter. The whole thing was reminiscent of Christmas wrappings with the set switching smoothly, whether Macy’s, the Walker household or a courtroom. And just as a large present is unwrapped, so the initial archway opened up to reveal the whole stage. Another thing which greatly appealed was the blatant use of just a few people to show the elaborate Parade passing by.
The show did however seem to take an awful long time to get going, while conversely, the ending was a little rushed, even if it’s pretty obvious little Susie is going to get her wish granted. And a few of the scenes seemed to last for ages, if appropriately when Fred is literally counting the minutes until Doris is due to call round. Not that he’d let it show; this is the classic ‘instant loathing but underneath it all actually true love scenario’, and how well the lucky couple do it. Stuart Reid establishes from the start that Fred is, deep down, a decent, kind-hearted chap whilst Caitlin Berry, throughout, is simply amazing, whether singing, dancing or acting. And Emma Kennedy-Rose is remarkably professional as Susie, cute as cute can be; it just feels a bit too much sometimes. Fair play, her accent is damn near impeccable, like the rest of the cast’s, although Taylor Walker’s Southern drawl as the judge threatens to swallow him right up. It provides much of the humour, as does his way over the top acting, as if somebody with Tourettes has gone on speed.
Speaking of humour, it was good to see Kevin Harvey as Marvin Shellhammer, assistant to Doris, valiantly grappling with a running joke surely inspired by Groucho Marx’s request for a crocodile sandwich. Other than Tim Parker, as the delightful Kris Kringle, the rest of the cast had multiple roles and Nicole Deon and Chloe Pole multi-tasked beautifully, while Liam Tobin excelled as Macy, no less, as did Mark Rice-Oxley, whose roles included posh DA and psychotic psychologist.
The true miracle is perhaps that Liverpool Playhouse, year after year, put on a splendid Christmas show with Miracle On 34th Street this time. Indeed, all year round, they come up with a programme which keeps everybody entertained.
Target Audience: All Ages
Content: 0/5 – No Content Likely To Offend
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good
Miracle On 34th Street runs at the Playhouse Theatre until Saturday January 4 2020. To buy tickets, click here or call 0151 709 4776.