Miracle on 34th Street opens the holiday season at Pec Playhouse Theatre

Miracle on 34th Street opens the holiday season at Pec Playhouse Theatre

By Edith McCauley, Theater Critic

Miracle on 34th Street, adapted for the stage by David Brandl, is best remembered as the 1947 movie starring Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle and Natalie Wood as Susan, who is convinced by her mother that Santa Claus does not exist. The entire plot revolves around her conversion to a true believer. Tom Kingery plays jolly old St. Nick and Abigail Pauley the sprightly Susan. From the first scene, Kingery’s presence centers the stage. His interaction with Pauley reveals his understanding of children, and the elves that surround him sprinkle every character with the magic dust of imagination.

Community theater provides a unique service. Aside from its entertainment value, it opens the door to everyone, giving them the opportunity to participate as technicians and performers. The cast of children and teen-agers guarantee a full house. Moms, dads, and the extended family are in attendance sharing the magic of those first moments on stage.

joan kole directs, and her previous holiday show, It’s A Wonderful Life, exhibited her expertise in working with a large cast and evoking creditable performances from those of all ages. The acquisition of technical equipment enables the crew to stage a show at an increasingly professional level. The set, too, shows good design and planning. The use of the teen-agers as interim interest holds the audience as sets are changed and a new scene emerges.

Romance enters with Rebecca Murphy-Nelson as Doris Walker, Susan’s mother, and neighbor Fred Gayley played by Todd A. Barr. The child brings them together as the practical mother finally sees, “Faith Is believing in things common sense tells you not to.”

Costume design by Jackie Mallen and Amy Terhark reflects the colors and style of the season. Every blouse, sweater, shirt and coat in red is in the production. Costuming more than 30 requires a special talent. Everyone in town not actually on stage was in the audience enjoying every minute. kole’s use of the natural imagination of children to create character is brilliant. Pretending becomes the reality of pre-schoolers and too often is lost as they grow. Theater gives children and adults alike a way to keep imagination a part of their lives.

The show runs through Dec. 1. Pec Playhouse is at 314 Main St. in Pecatonica. For information regarding times and tickets, call 395-9586.

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