West T. Hill putting on musical version of 'Miracle on 34th Street'

November 29, 2004|JENNIFER BRUMMETT

A musical version of the popular holiday classic "Miracle on 34th Street" is on the yuletide platter at West T. Hill Community Theatre. Titled "Here's Love," the musical is about a feisty Santa and a skeptical little girl named Susan.

"The plot is about the irrepressible Kris Kringle (Bob Bausum) and how he comes to be hired as the fill-in Santa Claus for Macy's Department Store, immediately following the historic Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," says Karen L. Logue, director of the show. "It follows 9-year-old Susan Walker (Sarabeth Marlowe) in her quest to 'believe or not to believe in the jolly old fellow.'s

"Susan's mother, Doris (Beth Marlowe), has brought her up to be an independent, free-thinking little girl - one not be taken in by fairy tales and visions of grandeur, which include the belief of Santa Claus. But Susan meets some interesting people along the way that want to change her mind: The sweet, next-door neighbor, Fred (Steve Sleeper), a retired Marine that falls in love with Susan and Doris - in that order; Ms. Shellhammer (Beth Wren), Doris' quirky store assistant; Mr. Macy (Shawn Moore), a bellowing, blustering softy; and many others to delight and entertain during Susan's journey. It is the perfect holiday fare, complete with colorful costumes and delightful songs."


Logue says the title of the musical refers to a lyric from the song by the same name.

"Kris Kringle explains to the Macy's Department Store shoppers that everyone should share - in other words, if you can't get the roller skates or special fire truck at Macy's, perhaps you can get it from - horror! - the competitor, Gimbels," she explains. "He then begins to explain through the song, about 'what love is.' He talks about Esso and Texaco sharing, neighbor 'brown' and neighbor 'white' sharing, 'from the high and the mighty to the meek and the low,' etc. It is really a very touching and lyrically special song.

"Kris keeps a journal of where parents can get special-requested toys, whether it be 'Lord & Taylors,' 'Gimbels' or 'Macy's,' and Macy's takes this project on as a special advertising ploy and it goes over beautifully. This all plays out in the musical play."

Set in the 1950s

"Here's Love" is set in the 1950s. Its lyrics and music are by Meredith Willson of "The Music Man" fame. Valentine Davies wrote the original "Miracle on 34th Street" story.

Logue likes the story "Here's Love" has to tell, saying it's a story you can't beat at the holidays. She remembers many of the references it makes.

"As a director, again, the story is a familiar one," she notes. "The characters are honest and down to earth. Although some are a bit quirky, they have been fun to help create and direct. The scenes are short, and many take place in the same areas - 'Santa Land' in the department store, the parade route, the New York courtroom, etc.

"On a personal level, I can relate to this story all too well. When I was young, I attended the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade several times, riding my father's shoulders and, when we couldn't go up to New York, I watched faithfully on television, years before the stunning color TV came into play. I shopped in Macy's when 'Santa Land' was a whole floor of its own and window shopping was a special treat during the holidays, complete with dazzling colors and animated figures, with each store competing with the other for the best displays. The 1950s were truly a magical time for me as a child, and this show takes me back there."

Large cast for holiday show

The cast numbers around 27, making it an extraordinarily large cast for a holiday show.

"The script had numerous and varied roles," Logue says. "I thought I could handle the large cast, if I was familiar enough with the material and if I had a good music director to assist me, because so much of the music is unfamiliar. There is really only one song that most folks will recognize - 'It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.'

"We were fortunate to find Ryan Shirar, co-founder and music director of Lexington's Paragon Music Theatre, to fill those shoes for us as music director and accompanist. This extremely talented musician and teacher has been an incredible asset and gift to this production. Ryan has been ably assisted by Duane Campbell and Kimberly Milburn. And on a personal note, I have found that I don't function very well as a director without Alice Berka assisting me. If all of these things hadn't been aligned, I may not have been able to take on a show of this magnitude."

Newcomers in the cast have contributed to the ups and downs of directing the show.

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