The Village Tattler Review: The Joyous Miracle On 34th Street, The Musical At Engeman Theater

Kevin McGuire as Kris Kringle in Miracle On 34th Street at The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

The holiday classic we all know and love, Miracle On 34th Street, is brought to the stage at The John W. Engeman Theater this holiday season, running through January 3, 2016. Picture everything you enjoyed about the movie—the spreading of love and joy in New York City during the holidays, the New York Supreme Court case proving that Santa Claus is not a myth, the happiness that a single mom and her daughter find when they start having faith again—and then, add the magic of a book with music and lyrics by Meredith Willson of Music Man fame. Story and screen play are by Valentine Davies.

Produced and directed by Richard T. Dolce, Engeman Theater’s Producing Artistic Director, Miracle on 34th Street soars, uplifting our hearts and filling them with hope and happiness. With Antoinette DiPietropolo’s magical touch as choreographer, each scene comes to life. DiPietropolo’s credits include Engeman Theater: The Producers, A Christmas Story – The Musical, Evita!, The Music Man, South Pacific, Hairspray, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, and Nunsense; Off Broadway: With Glee; Regional: Annie, Jesus Christ Superstar, Chicago, Ragtime; National Tour: How The Grinch Stole Christmas; and Associate Director/Choreographer for The Big Apple Circus

The incredible cast includes Kim Carson as Doris Walker, who returns to Engeman after performing in The Music Man, South Pacific, and Camelot,and Broadway veterans Aaron Ramey as Fred Gaily, Kevin McGuire as Kris Kringle, and Bill Nolte as R.H. Macy.

McGuire, who has performed on Broadway and in both National and International Tours of Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, The Secret Garden, and Jane Eyre, plays a convincing Santa Claus with just the right “wink of his eye, twinkle of his toes, and the Joy.”

The fabulous children’s ensemble are notable and equally convincing in musical numbers such as “That Man Over There,” in which they insist “that man over there is Santa Claus, I know, I know, I know.” Also, engaging and delightful is the scene when the children become the toys in Macy’s Toy Department. The Red Cast of kids who appeared on opening night are Miranda Jo DeMott, Katie Dolce, Erin Haggerty, Meaghan Maher, Shane McGlone, Christopher McKenna, Jr., Theron Viljoen, and Chloe Wheeler.

DeMott, Dolce, Haggerty, Maher, McGlone, Viljoen, and Wheeler all return to the Engeman stage after appearing in previous MainStage musicals (DeMott in South Pacific; Dolce in White Christmas, Music Man, and A Christmas Story; Maher inMusic Man, A Christmas Carol, and A Christmas Story; and Haggerty, McGlone, Viljoen and Wheeler in A Christmas Story). The red cast of kids all give fantastic performances–dancing, singing, and spreading holiday joy as seen through the eyes of the young. Their excitement is infectious in every scene they are in, including the lively opening number, “Big Ca-lown Balloons,” taking place outside of Macy’s Department Store on 34th Street on Thanksgiving morning.

New to Mainstage at Engeman are the two lovely young actresses who play Susan Walker: Meaghan Marie McInnes and Sophia Eleni Kekllass.

Kevin McGuire (Kris Kringle) and Meaghan Marie McInnes as Susan Walker. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

McInnes plays opening night’s Susan and is most charming—an adorable, precocious and talented young actress who is sure to be seen in future stage productions. She is magnetic, capturing the audience in every scene in which she appears. In Scene 2 of Act 1, McInnes sings “Arm in Arm” with the amazingly talented Carson, who plays Susan’s mom Doris.

Miracle is warm, engaging, and lively, with big musical ensemble numbers such as “Big Ca-lown Balloons,” “Here’s Love,” and “That Man Over There.” And this show is also funny. The comedic timing of “Plastic Alligators,” is perfect and well-choreographed by DiPietropolo, and Matt Wolpe is amazing and hilarious as Shellhammer, along with the adult ensemble.

Wolpe has appeared in the National Tour of Once and Off Broadway in Hells Bells. His Regional theater credits include: Weston Playhouse, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Laguna Playhouse, Sacramento Music Circus, Ensemble Theatre of Santa Barbara, Pasadena Playhouse, NoHo Arts Center, Blank Theatre, Boston Theatre Work and La Miranda.

Miracle has it all. In addition to all its holiday joy as “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas,” there are also the themes of divorce and finding love again, not believing in anything anymore and then, finding faith and belief again. Carson and Ramey (who plays Gaily) have an amazing stage chemistry, in a tango of dislike and like that turns to love. “He’s always right, I’m always wrong…and then we were kissing just like it was the last kiss on earth,” sings Carson.

Ramey’s voice is warm and rich. His acting is impressive; he has a great chemistry with the audience and with McInnes as well in “My Wish,” which takes place on a swing in a Central Park playground. His credits include Engeman Theater’s White Christmas, and Broadway in The Visit, The Bridges of Madison County, Jekyll & Hyde, Young Frankenstein, Curtains, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Ramey has also appeared in the National Tours of South Pacific, Jekyll & Hyde, Sweet Charity, and Disney’s Beauty & the Beast. 

Also fun and so enjoyable to watch, is “She Hadda Go Back,” in Act 2, with Ramey and some of the adult male ensemble who play his friends. The song is very reminiscent of The Music Man.

Nolte is unforgettable as R.H. Macy, the owner of Macy’s department store, “the largest department store in New York City.” His acting chops are on display throughout. Nolte has performed on Broadway in The Producers, La Cage Aux Faux, Cats, and more. His regional credits include Hello Dolly, The Drowsy Chaperone, My Fair Lady, Damn Yankees, Fiddler and Most Happy Fella.

The cast also includes Todd Thurston, who is fantastic as Judge Martin Group and whose credits include Broadway in Ragtime; Tours: La Cage, Little House on the Prairie, and Les Miserables; and Regional: Long Warf, Goodspeed, Barrington, St. Louis Rep, Asolo, Berkshire, Pioneer and Wichita.

John Little plays Dr. Sawyer; he is hilarious in the scenes with Kris Kringle. Little returns to the Engeman after acting in  Little Women, Run for Your Wife and My Fair Lady. Off Broadway credits are Poetic License, Hamlet and Taming of the Shrew; Regional: The Grapes of Wrath, Amadeus, Glimmerglass, Major Barbara and My Fair Lady; and TV: Boardwalk Empire and Law & Order.

The adult ensemble is: NICK ADDEO, PIM VAN AMERONGEN, SAM ARLEN, MARK T. CAHILL, DARIA DEGAETANO, COURTNEY FEKETE, SOPHIA ELENI KEKLLAS, SUZANNE MASON, MARYELLEN MOLFELLA, MEAGHAN MARIE MCINNES, LAURA OTREMBA, MICHAEL SANTORA and SUMMERISA BELL STEVENS.

The children’s ensemble alternates with red and green casts. The red cast is MIRANDA JO DEMOTT, KATIE DOLCE, ERIN HAGGERTY, MEAGHAN MAHER, SHANE MCGLONE, CHRISTOPHER MCKENNA, THERON VILJOEN, and CHLOE WHEELER. The green cast is AMBER CORRIGAN, SOPHIA GUARNASCHELLI, KATHERINE LAFOUNTAIN, CLAIRE LEVASSEUR, MICHAEL MENESHIAN, CHRISTOPHER PAPPAS, AIDAN PASSARO, and MEGAN TRAGESAR.

Musical Director is DAVID CALDWELL (Off-Broadway Music Director: Forbidden Broadway, Murder for Two. Off Broadway Composer: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Uh-Oh Here Comes Christmas,Third Wish, Gotta Getta Girl. Conductor: American premiere of Stephen Schwartz’s Children of Eden. Arranged and orchestrated Marvin Hamlisch’s song “I’m Really Dancing” forCareer Transitions for Dancers’ 25th Anniversary Gala.

The Design Team is STEPHEN DOBAY (Scenic Design), KATHLEEN DOYLE (Costume Design), JIMMY LAWLOR (Lighting Design), LAURA SHUBERT (Sound Design), KAYE BLANKENSHIP (Props Design), FRANCK CASTING (Casting Director), RENEE SANTOS STEWART (Production Stage Manager), and MEGAN COUTTS (Assistant Stage Manager).

Miracle on 34th Street is not to be missed this holiday season. The performance schedule is Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00 with some Wednesday (8:00pm) and Sunday evenings (7:00pm) available. Tickets are $74 on Saturday evenings, $69 all other performances and may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, going online atEngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.

 

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