By Christy Ingram
For The Fayette Tribune
“Miracle on 34th Street” is a tale that we want to believe in, that creates a world we seem to desperately desire, free of the blatant commercialism that surrounds us, where love and decency and generosity of spirit are their own rewards. It is what we want Christmas to be all about, really.
“Miracle on 34th Street” takes the Historic Fayette Theater stage at 8 p.m. on Nov. 29. Additional performances of this classic, heartwarming holiday story will be Nov. 30, and Dec. 6-7 at 8 p.m. and two matinee performances Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 at 2 p.m.
The play opens with Doris Walker, Macy’s no-nonsense special events director, finding the actor hired to play Santa Claus intoxicated only moments before the start of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. In a panic, Doris persuades a nice old man standing nearby to take his place.
The kindly gentleman proves to be a sensation; he is so convincing he is quickly hired to be Macy’s official store Santa. Much to her dismay, Doris soon learns that her new hire, Kris Kringle, claims to be the real Santa. Despite her refusal to believe, many people begin to notice there is something very special about the old man, including her daughter Susan.
What ensues is an exciting courtroom drama that tests everyone’s belief in the magic and spirit of Christmas. He claims to be the real Santa Claus, but how can he convince the doubters, including an 8-year-old girl who longs to find something to believe in?
Brought to life on the HFT stage, the play, an adaptation of the classic film starring Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, and Natalie Wood, is certain to be a holiday delight and bring a dose of holiday cheer to downtown Fayetteville.
The adaptation is an interesting interpretation of the original 1947 film. The writers, the Mountain Community Theatre based on the book by Valentine Davies, highlighted the well-known scenes and it translated to the stage. The director, Gene Worthington, made adaptations of his own, choosing to set the story in modern day and adapting several of the supporting roles. This was all taken in stride by the cast and none of the original charm was lost. Worthington ensured all the roles were portrayed by skilled and dedicated actors.
Megan Weatherford plays an assertive, yet sweet Doris Walker, whose past prevents her from truly connecting with her future.
Her daughter, Susan, is played by Maya Mills, a young actress who is best described as bright-eyed, precocious and full of life.
Will Weatherford (Megan’s real life husband) plays a sincere and gentle Fred Gayley and works well opposite the many mood changes of the Doris role.
Kris Kringle is portrayed by Fayetteville’s own Santa, Steve Tyra, who gives a very authentic performance as the Santa we all know and love – big shoes to fill.
The supporting cast is equally engaging with various ensembles, from a group of unionized elves, to a pack of adults filling in whenever necessary. Melissa Garrison-Minter plays Judge Henrietta Harper with a remarkable attention to detail: every minute action and reaction is calculated to give a very genuine performance of a woman dealing with quite the drama: Can reason and logic be abandoned for hope and simple faith?
Gary Reynolds charms the audience as the slightly frazzled, but always in control, Mr. Shellhammer.
Jennifer Garvin is also noteworthy as the stressed, yet strong, Charlene Halloran, Judge Harper’s campaign manager.
Most impressive is the sheer organization and coordination of such a large cast, which must be credited to the behind-the-scenes technicians and skillful guidance from Worthington.
Be sure to come and get caught up in the story and the beauty of this play that sends home the message that, yes, the toys are important, but what’s essential is the belief in the magic of the season and the faith that things have a way of working out.
Tickets are $7 for seniors and children under 12, with adult tickets only $10. Reservations are strongly encouraged and can be made at the theater on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. or by calling the 24/7 ticket line at 1-800-838-3006. Reservations can also be made conveniently online with a credit card at www.brownpapertickets.com.
Running time is approximately 2 hours with a 10-minute intermission. The matinee performances on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 will feature a special time after the show for the kids to come and have cookies with Santa, and give him their Christmas list. Start your holiday season with this special performance of “Miracle on 34th Street.”