Well, it’s about time to wrap up this gruesome year of our lord, 2016. The temptation is always there, after the Black Friday fiasco and last turkey sandwich, to dive right into the holiday spirit. A temptation which I, normally, am able to resist.
So, this weekend I was surprised to find myself sitting second row center at a full-blown holly jolly Christmas musical.
Saturday night was the regional premier of The Massasoit Theater Company’s presentation of Miracle on 34th Street. The musical, based on the classic 1947 holiday film favorite, opened its first of 5 performances over the next two weekends at the Buckley Performing Arts Center.
Director Nathan Fogg and Producer Mark Rocheteau are bringing the classic story to the Massasoit stage. Fantasy is pitted against reality as a man named Kris Kringle replaces a drunken Macy’s Santa Claus, and claims to be the real thing.
Kelly Hines plays Doris, the mother who has trained herself, and her daughter Susan, played by the young Austin Archabal, to resist such silly notions as Santa Claus. But as Kris Kringle, played convincingly by Craig O’Connor, is bound for Bellevue after a failed mental examination, children and adults alike rally together hoping for a miracle.
I myself, usually hold back from indulging in such pleasantries until about a day or two before Christmas.
Then I read that Bobby Valentine, Red Sox hall of shame ex-manager and fake mustache enthusiast, was under consideration for Ambassador to Japan. So, I put down the paper, and bought a ticket for Saturday’s performance.
The packed lobby at the Buckley Center piled into the auditorium for the 8pm performance. I tried to bury my “bah! humbugs!” as the orchestra, under Music Director Christina Ferrera, struck up the Overture.
The full ensemble was present early on, depicting the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Juggling clowns gave way to high-kicking Rockettes, as the production showed the strength of its cast early on. A tender Mother/daughter duet in “Arm and Arm,” featured Hines and young Austin.
This tugging at the heartstrings was properly balanced by the hilarious Alexander Hagerty, playing Marvin Shellhammer, the inept Macy’s suit responsible for thousands of excess plastic alligators.
The break for humor cleared the way for O’Connor as ol’ St. Nick, to steal the majority of the remaining first act. A full-cast “Toy Ballet” in young Susan’s mind, closed the first half. Familiar toys and fairy tales danced off stage, as Susan explored the “Imagi-Nation.”
Any Grinch-green hearts in the audience were thoroughly warmed by the time the second half started.
The drama thickened in the second act as Kris Kringle, the man they call Santa Claus, had his day in court. The arena provided the right setting for Athan Mantalos, playing R.H. Macy to steal the show in the second half. Matt Torrance as Fred Gaily, and Jack Ferdman’s DA Mara also stood out. Little Scotty Kippenhan also drew applause testifying as DA Mara’s son.
It was a slew of strong performances, with many members doing double, triple, and quadruple duty. Hanna Teceno burst through in several smaller roles, coming off a strong performance as Lady Macbeth at Massasoit this October.
As the tinsel glistened off the spotlights I found myself cracking a seasonal smile and rising with the rest of the audience for the standing ovation. I accepted the Christmas cliché I had become as my skepticism vanished, watching a passionate cast meeting the challenge of this ambitious holiday performance.
The shows will continue with 3pm Sunday matinees on the 11th and 18th, and two more 8pm shows on Friday and Saturday of next weekend, the 16th and 17th.
Tickets are going fast for matinee shows, and tickets for all shows are being sold at the Buckley Performing Arts Center Box office, or in advance online.
So go get yourself a strong dose of holiday cheer. As 2016 reaches its merciful end, it’s certainly not too early to get in the spirit.