Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) Miracle on 34th Street

(from the company website)

Christmas with a Raving Sentimentalist
by Jim Murchison 

Plosive productions annual Christmas radio play at The Gladstone this year is Miracle on 34th Street. It has been adapted by John Cook in collaboration with Teri Loretto-Valentik and director Nicole Milne from the original story by Valentine Davies. Of course the advantage to this type of presentation is that you get to use mostly the same set every year, although tucked downstage left this year was a cozy little room where Poppa played by Bob Lackey and grandson Jake played by Ben Blacklock added some ambiance and modern context. It's a nice touch since so many of us have shared the film experience of this tale with family.

First of all I have to disclose that I am a raving sentimentalist. I have some favourite films that I watch at Christmas: A Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life and of course Miracle on 34th Street. What works best for me in theatre is when your own imagination creates the magic. Film can pull out all the bells and whistles if need be, but few theatre companies can afford to create incredible live effects. For the most part, happily it is the audience's suspension of disbelief and their own imaginations manipulated by cast and crew that create the finishing effect. You simply have to believe. That's how it is with theatre, books, radio and also with Christmas.

Be prepared to sing along if needed.

For sentimentality to work it can't get maudlin or over-played and so we have the cynical asides of Steve Martin as the Radio Announcer peddling the products that keep radio CGLD afloat. Martin who is the master of the sardonic take also plays Fred Gayley and Mr. Macey with crisp, distinctly separate characterization, but it his reaction as the chain-smoking actor playing these roles that makes his performance incredibly funny.

Tim Oberholzer plays multiple characters as well and is particularly effective as the sneering District Attorney, Mr. Mara; the enemy to all things Santa. Oberholzer is a slim man and will likely draw much envy of his metabolism from dieters in the crowd, as he appears to eat and drink constantly whenever not on the microphone in the first half. 

Real life mother and daughter Irish and Kelty O'Brien play Doris and Susan Walker so it can't be anything but authentic. Although Milne encourages you to close your eyes and imagine listening to the radio, don't do it for too long because lots goes on behind the scenes and Kelty O'Brien has a face far too good for radio.

Katie Bunting and Shaun Toohey are solid playing a number of roles. Bunting is a perky, flirty actress striving for film stardom in the subtext of her character behind the characters. Toohey gets to be a little boy again and schmoozes with one of the singers in a little Christmas ditty. Tom Charlebois rounds out the cast as a quiet, dignified Kris Kringle that embodies what the season is all about.

Adding extra yuletide spirit are the aforementioned singers, The Gladstone sisters, comprised of Lori Jean Hodge, Michelle Fansett and Rachel Eugster who harmonize to many of our Christmas favourites. Be prepared to sing along if needed.

This is a very family-friendly show so you are encouraged to attend as a family, and also if you can spare some mittens, gloves or scarves bring them along and donate them so that another Ottawa family can put them to good use. Even if your schedule doesn't afford you time to see the show, The Gladstone will accept them all day long when they are open. Merry Christmas and believe in a spirit that makes us all a little better and a little kinder to each other.

Miracle on 34th Street runs to December 23

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.