Celebrate a musical “Miracle on 34th Street” at SCERA this December

(Orem, Utah) — For millions of people, the holidays are not complete without a viewing of the film classic “Miracle on 34th Street.” And as a bonus, Utah Valley can see it live on stage when SCERA Center for the Arts mounts a musical adaptation of the famous story Dec. 1-16.

With the book, music and lyrics by Meredith Willson, best known for “The Music Man,” the play is a bright, family-oriented musical fest that highlights the spirit and love of Christmas, says veteran director and drama teacher Robinne Booth.

“Miracle on 34th Street” will play Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm. Reserved-seat tickets at $14 for adults and $12 for children age 3-11 and seniors 65 and older are available at www.scera.org, by calling 801-225-ARTS, or at the main office at SCERA, 745 South State, Orem.  Group rates for non-profit/church groups of 20 or more may be purchased in advance for $6 each.  The show will be interpreted in American Sign Language on Thursday, Dec. 7th.  Anyone interested in this service should contact april@scera.org.

“Every year, we try to give the community a production that will launch their holiday season,” says Adam J. Robertson, SCERA’s President and CEO.

“If you love ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ as I do,” says Booth, “you’ll love the musical. It follows the story line quite faithfully, and some of the dialogue is recognizable from the film. We’ve set the story in the 1940s for a nostalgic look and an appreciation of the war our nation had just fought.”

She says the musical score is meaningful but also fun and catchy. “There is one song that is so reminiscent of ‘The Music Man,’ that you could guess this was a work by Meredith Willson. It does a great job enhancing and advancing the story.”  More well-known numbers include “Pinecones & Hollyberries” and “It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas.”

For the few who may not know the story, it unfolds in New York City just before the Thanksgiving holiday. Doris Walker, a single mother raising her young daughter Susan, works as an executive for Macy’s Department Store and oversees the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Susan meets ex-marine Fred Gaily, who falls for her mother and wants Susan to see more magic and less of her no-nonsense view of the world by introducing her to Macy’s authentic Santa Claus. The jolly old elf calls himself Kris Kringle.

Later in the story, Fred must employ the U.S. Postal Service to help Kris in the New York Supreme Court when he must defend Kris from a charge of insanity after Kringle insists he is the real deal – the real Santa Claus.  As can be expected, cynical hearts are warmed and a sweet Christmas spirit envelopes the city.

Boothe is using a cast of 40 to unfold the “miracle.” Leads are Lydia Oakeson, who performs with the prestigious One Voice Children’s Choir, is Susan; TJ Thomas is Fred Gaily, Natalie Merrill is Doris Walker and Arden Hopkin, emeritus Professor of Voice at Brigham Young University, is Kris Kringle.

“These actors are exceptional,” Boothe says. “They are so good at presenting a story geared to the heart. In a world that commercializes Christmas, this play focuses on generosity and love. I loved the script as soon as I read it. Arden is so sweet and kind in real life, and he embodies the very essence of Santa. Kids just flock to him at rehearsal.”

Robertson adds, “At our photo shoot at Tai Pan Trading, Arden was dressed as Kris Kringle, and families with younger children in the store just spontaneously gathered round to see him and talk to him. He has such warmth.”  After each performance at SCERA, “Santa” will be in the lobby for photos with children, so patrons are encouraged to bring their cameras.

The set was a huge undertaking because of all the scene changes, but Booth says set designer Shawn Mortensen was up for the challenge. “It is going to be so festive, and Macy’s toy store is especially fun. Unlike the movie, the play has a dream sequence where Susan sees the toys and dancers come to life. I am using several cast members dressed as toys, ballerinas and other dancers to personify the toy store.”

Mortensen says the set is about as close to a replica of the front of Macy’s Department Store as you can get, and one of the largest set pieces SCERA has ever had on their fly system.

Others assisting Booth are Crysta Powell as stage manager; Brodee Ripple as choreographer; Deborah Bowman as costume designer; Christy Norton as props designer;  Dana Cardon, a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, as music director; and Elizabeth Griffiths as lighting designer, who is planning all kinds of unexpected special effects to bring the holiday magic, including snow.

 

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APRIL BERLIN

Operations Manager/Marketing & Development

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