Theatre Sarnia’s upcoming production of Miracle on 34th Street is a feel-good holiday classic that audiences love to see, says director Jane Janes.
It’s also one that performers love to do, which is one reason why the version opening Friday night incorporates a big cast and 25-member a cappella ensemble, she said.
“A lot of people like to be involved in our Christmas show so Gord Walkling, our musical co-ordinator, put together this group to sing carols during the transition between scenes,” explained Janes.
The singers open with Jingle Bells and end with Santa Claus is Coming to Town. In between, they perform lots of seasonal favourites and a number of young children do a rendition of All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.
“This is a play with music, but it’s not a musical,” said Janes.
She was “hogwild” to direct Miracle on 34th Street because of its wide appeal at this time of year.
Janes is a veteran actor, director and producer with Theatre Sarnia, having joined about 20 years ago.
“I jumped in with both feet,” she said. “Within three years I was a member of the board and directing my first play.”
She believes the calibre of community theatre in Sarnia continues to improve, particularly with advancements in technology.
“For example, our set for Miracle on 34th Street is created with big panels that have printed photos on them with the outside of Macy’s or the outside of the courthouse. It’s very realistic,” Janes said.
She credits the head of set construction Bill Souliere and his crew for putting in full days with great results.
“I’m always amazed by the people in the background,” she said.
Miracle on 34th Street became a Christmas favourite right after its release as an Academy award-winning Hollywood movie in 1947.
In 1963, it was made into a Broadway musical and numerous renditions have been written since. Theatre Sarnia bought the rights to the stage play written in 2010 and Janes said great pains were taken to carefully recreate it to reflect the 1947 movie.
“Our biggest challenge is making sure everything is period. We have really good people who found wardrobe, furniture and even cash registers from 1947,” said Janes.
Miracle on 34th Street is a family-friendly show about an old fellow named Kris Kringle, played by Sarnia’s Dave Engleson. He gets a job as Santa at Macy’s Department Store in New York City and soon finds himself in all kinds of trouble.
Macy’s tries to have him committed to a psychiatric hospital and his competency is tested in court where he must prove his identity.
All the while, 10-year-old Susan Walker, daughter of Macy’s personnel manager, befriends Kris and is slowly convinced he is the real Santa.
Susan is played by Olivia Moscone who brings a “special spark” to the part, and has the talent to pull it off, said Janes.
In total, the cast is comprised of 13 children, seven teens and 20 adults. Even more are involved behind the scenes.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Theatre Sarnia’s Miracle on 34th Street
WHEN: Nov. 23 – Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. No Monday or Tuesday performance. Matinee Nov. 25 at 2 p.m.
WHERE: Imperial Theatre
TICKETS: $40 adult, $20 child. At the box office, 168 Christina St. North, by calling 519-344-7469 or online at www.imperialtheatre.net.
The Arts Journal reflects Sarnia’s cultural fabric. Send your ideas to [email protected].