As the fake snow fell on the stage and the chorus sang ‘it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’, for the first time this year I did actually feel a little Christmassy. That is early for me. Very early. In fact the feeling generally doesn’t kick in until around Christmas Eve (sometimes later if at all). But that’s the effect Miracle On 34th Street can have.
Since its debut as a movie in 1947, Miracle on 34th Street has gone on to become one of the most popular Christmas productions of all time, both on television and on stage, delighting young and old. The classic story of the young girl Susan who doesn’t believe in Father Christmas until she meets him (her mother has accidentally hires the real Kris Kringle as a department store Santa Claus) and the ensuing drama as he lays claim to being the real deal has become a Christmas staple.
On its run at the Opera House Manchester, the production showed enough to demonstrate why it is a winner with children, although it may be a little less likely to win over adults who are not already in love with the story.
The stage setting is impressive and versatile, making for an excellent looking Macy’s whilst doubling as a living room, high street and courtroom. On top of this some excellent costumes make for a visually arresting show. The visual aspect is particularly evident during the early pageant scene, which is very well choreographed and performed by the ensemble, dancing and springing around the stage to delightful effect, each group wearing different costumes and coming on consecutively to give the effect of the pageant moving forwards. Similarly the Toy Ballet is beautiful to watch.
The show also features some excellent individual performances. Claire Hawkins in particular as Susan’s mother Doris is exceptional. Her signing, presence and timing are spot on throughout. Similarly Hannah Thompson in the pivotal role of Susan is endearing. And the central role of Kris Kringle (played by Dayy Lane) is cast to perfection as Lane makes performs the character wonderfully, displaying poise, a calm and wise character, and a completely believable Santa Claus.
There are, however, a few blips along the way. There are some difficulties with the sound, with microphones occasionally not being turned on, and in the ensemble numbers are, at times, difficult to decipher. There was also a surprising orchestral error with one of the instrumentalists wildly out of tune for a brief period before recovering. The character of the cruel and incompetent Sawyer also comes across a little too much as a comic book villain.
Miracle on 34th Street, however, is littered with feel good Christmas songs, frequently linked with well performed carols. Believers will no doubt be taken with the performance, although any non-believers may take a little more convincing that Santa is able to offer on this occasion.
Miracle on 34th Street is performed at Manchester Opera House until 25 November 2015.
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