Narrows Community Theater presents stage version of iconic film
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Talk to anyone you know about their favorite Christmas movies and “Miracle on 34th Street,” will be at or near the top of the list.
The 1947 film starred Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn and John Payne and is considered a classic. But did you know that there was also a musical version of the iconic story about the Macy’s department store Santa Claus who turns out to be the real thing?
In the early 1960s, a musical version of “Miracle on 34th Street” with a score by Meredith Wilson of “The Music Man” fame played on Broadway.
The Narrows Community Theater, a Bay Ridge based non-profit theater company, is mounting a production of the little-known musical as an early Christmas treat for audiences.
“Miracle on 34th Street” will be presented on two weekends, Nov. 29-Dec. 1 and Dec. 6-8 at the Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater. The fort’s entrance is located at Fort Hamilton Parkway and 101st Street. The base’s second entrance, at Seventh Avenue and Poly Place, will be open on performance days, but only for those entering the base on foot. Narrows Community Theater officials advise that audience members should bring a photo ID with them, since that is required to enter the military base.
The musical version of “Miracle on 34th Street” features the same basic story line as the movie: a warm, friendly Macy’s Santa named Kris Kringle claims to be the real Santa Claus and touches the lives of all around him, including Doris Walker, a divorced, cynical woman played by O’Hara in the 1947 film, and her daughter Susan (played by Wood), who come to believe in him and believe in Christmas. Gwenn won an Oscar for his performance as Kris Kringle. Payne played O’Hara’s love interest, the lawyer who proves in court that Kringle is indeed the real Santa Claus.
But the musical, which contains numbers like “Here’s Love,” “The Toy Ballet” and “That Man Over There is Santa Claus,” differs from the original in many respects, according to Alex Amarosa, who is directing the Narrows production. “The story is familiar, but the music is not really familiar to the audience,” Amarosa told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “The most well known song in here is ‘It’s Beginning to Look A Lot like Christmas,’ which plays for only two minutes,” he said, adding that audience members will feel like they’re seeing a brand new musical.
“The show was written 16 years after the movie,” Amarosa said. “The musical premiered in October of 1963. I have moved the action to 1964,” he said. Instead of a 1940s, post-World War II New York, this version is set in 1964, a time when the Beatles first came to America and the nation was starting to come out of its grief over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
“In reality, this story is timeless. It could be set at any point in time,” Amarosa said. He described the musical as family friendly entertainment.
According to his biography on the website of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Wilson was heavily influenced by the military music of John Philip Sousa. This is perhaps why “The Music Man” has a marching band sound. Similarly, “Miracle on 34th Street” starts off with a rousing, 10-minute long opening number set at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that should have people tapping their toes.
This production stars Michael Blake as Kris Kringle, Karen Mascolo as Doris Walker, Dalles Wilie as the lawyer who represents Kringle in court (and becomes Doris’s love interest) and Mariana Weaver and Lucy Sullivan, who will alternate playing Susan.
The show’s musical director is Heather Edwards. The choreographer is David Paul Kidder.
As a special treat for audiences, the children in the cast will be performing Christmas carols in the lobby of the theater before the show. And during intermission, the sound system will be playing songs from the famous Christmas album produced in the early 1960s by Phil Spector featuring girl groups like the Ronettes and the Crystals singing holiday classics. “I wanted Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound to be playing,” Amarosa said.
The director said he wants the audience to come away from the show with a renewed faith in humanity. “I want them to renew their faith in human beings. It’s a show about believing in Christmas and believing in yourself,” he said.
The performance schedule is as follows: on Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 29, 30, Dec 6 and 7, the show begins at 8 p.m., on Sundays, Dec 1 and 8, the curtain rises at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students under 21, and $10 for children 12 years old and under. For reservations or more information call 718-482-3173 or email NCT@NCTheaterNY.com. Tickets can also be ordered online at www.NarrowsCommunityTheater.com.