Based on the 1947 radio broadcast of the much-loved American classic, the Bridge House Theatre’s Miracle on 34th Street is a super-sweet seasonal treat.
The scenario suits the tiny Bridge House Theatre well: six actors jostle in front of large mics – in clipped RP tones pre-‘broadcast’, then as an assortment of New Yorkers – to tell the story of Kris Kringle (a jovial Richard Albrecht), the department store Santa Claus who claims to be the real thing. At the side of the stage, Jamie Ross’ plucky, tuxedoed Announcer is hemmed in by a piano and an array of contraptions for producing sound effects.
In fine voice throughout, Guy Retallack’s well-drilled cast frequently breaks into Jon Lorenz’s songs and schmaltzy arrangements of seasonal ditties to heighten dramatic tension at key plot points. Emily Carewe is winningly wide-eyed as eight-year-old Susan Walker, setting up her put-upon mother (Lowenna Melrose) and dashing neighbour Fred Gailey (Ellis Dackombe) on dinner dates. Armed with props galore, Amy Reitsma and Lewis Rae conjure up a quickfire panoply of cigar-chomping store owners, lisping secretaries, unscrupulous doctors and bickering lawyers.
Whenever the narrative verges on becoming too saccharine, period-style commercials for Penge-based businesses break up the action – a delightful touch of local self-mockery.
Though the paraphernalia of broadcasting may not be lampooned quite as archly here as by, say, the Fitzrovia Radio Hour, Miracle on 34th Street is full of well-executed songs and characters. It focuses on the story at hand to confect an indulgent figgy pudding of a festive show.