I didn't see any Syrian immigrants or any new Tacoma Muslim residents in the audience, so I'm guessing everyone else in the mostly "sold out" Tacoma Little Theatre had seen Miracle on 34th Street numerous times and knew the plot and storyline. Syrians and Muslims would have been welcome, even if possibly confused.
Following a nice dinner at the Adriatic Grill, Peggy and I walked into a full lobby at TLT. We could hear Christmas Carols being sung to the waiting patrons. Edging forward I enjoyed watching the cast getting themselves into the mood for the sweet little story line of "Miracle on 34th Street." Managing Artistic Director Chris Serface had told me to keep an eye out for one of the ensemble members. I spied her immediately.
Violet Brielle Spatary was the smallest person in the singing group and the one that eyes were drawn to. She hopped; she danced; she vamped; and popped.
I didn't know what part she had, but I knew she would make the most of it . . . and probably melt the hearts of any Scrooges crossing over from other holiday performances.
Michael Dresdner, the ukulele kit maker (among other accomplishments), has been performing quite a bit at TLT over the last couple of years and around the region. With his white beard and a soft in the middle build, he might not quite pass for a lively little elf, but makes a credible Kris Kringle (Santa Claus).
In case you need a little prompting on the story line: It's the holiday season in New York City, the big city department stores are at war trying to outsell the competition and make huge profits. Part of the strategy is to have "Santa" welcome the children and gently suggest slow moving toys from their inventories. The current "Santa" at Macy's is drunk, again and the kindly looking stranger who resembles the toy making saint is asked to "make believe" he is "Santa." A done deal.
Kris Kringle knows every child's name, after all they are on his list . . . and checked twice. He greets each child and gives them hope and suggestions. Even little Janet (Violet Brielle Spatary) with a huge list is welcomed. Throw in a young girl who doesn't believe in Santa Claus, along with a little love interest, and deal in some back office politicking and you've got the whole package.
Violet is known for her recurring role on "The Ellen Show" and co-hosting "Evening of Excellence" with Disney Channel's Ben Savage. There is a nice connection between her and the story line of the play. Violet just finished filming for Macy's "Believe Campaign" in which she is featured this holiday season.
I got a kick out of Marion Read, who played Mrs. Shellhammer. She played a feisty character. I watched her walk off stage staying in character all the while as she entered the darkness between the scenery and finally disappeared. I like that.
Something else I like about the current state of theatrical affairs is the role of people of color and ethnicities. Twenty years ago I was a little taken aback by a black Liza Doolittle, but as soon as she started speaking and singing, nothing mattered other than the performance. I thought, "Well, why not?"
In Miracle on 34th Street we have a play of a film most of us have seen for years featuring the world as it was in the late 1940s . . . black and white and with mostly white performers. If we now have a black Mrs. Shellhammer, so what?
Marion appeared in TLT's "To Kill a Mockingbird" a couple of seasons back. Her professional credits go back thirty years. She was a concert soprano soloist. She performed in summer stock, regional theatre, and opera throughout the United States.
When she wasn't on stage or getting ready to go on stage, Marion came out and played the spinet piano to set moods and accompany some of the singing on stage. A very versatile performer. They are like gold in community theater!
Imagine the head of Macy's as a cigar chomping Donald Trump. That's how Kerry Bringman broadly played his Mr. Macy character.
Kerry's Mr. Macy was about making money . . . and then about free publicity . . . about beating the competition and finally working together . . . to make more money and possibly help the community.
Some of the highlights of the production were the interchanges between Mr. Macy and his competition, Mr. Bloomingdale. Both characters were well played by seasoned actors. Even just posing for publicity stills they drew laughs.
Kerry has been acting for over forty years with the last nine here, locally.
My favorite play of last season at Tacoma Little Theatre was Second Samuel. Both Michael Dresdner and Kerry were in that production.
Kerry performs at a number of other local theaters, and is an educational consultant with the U.S. Army in his spare time.
I love comedy relief, even in a play that is funny and heartwarming. The comedy relief besides Mr. Macy and Mr. Bloomingdale, was provided by three Santa elves. From top to bottom: Jayda Slack, Mary Norton, and Makayla Broxton. In-between their pieces of business on stage, they hauled, turned, and moved scenery sets from one scene to another.
Jayda Slack is in her second year at the Village Theatre's Musical Theatre Institute. She has already performed in Hairspray and Alice in Wonderland.
Mary Norton has been learning by participating in local theater educational programs. She played the title role in St. Patrick School's production of Bugsy Malone ("We could have been anything that we wanted to be, with all the talent we had . . . we're the very best at being bad boys . . . we're the very best at being bad.")
Gig Harbor high school student, Makayla Broxton, has been doing theater since she was seven.
It is so nice seeing aspiring actors coming up through the ranks. We hope to see more productions featuring these three young women as they land more roles locally and regionally.
Do yourself a favor and make reservations for you and your family. Miracle on 34th Street runs through December 24th. For tickets or information, call 253-272-2281.
You'll find ticket information online at TacomaLittleTheatre.com.