This time of year brings out the traditionalist in most all of us.
This year, I had the pleasure of checking out one of the all-time classics live and in person. I was invited to watch a dress rehearsal of Rush County Player’s current production of “Miracle on 34th Street.”
As I settled down in the gym of St. Mary School, I checked out the creative and festive set that flows well from one scene to the next.
The show is set in New York City and begins with the crowd anticipating the start of Macy’s Christmas Parade. Unfortunately, the Macy’s Santa Claus, played hilariously by Mark Sloan, has a bit too much “Christmas Spirit” in him and a replacement is needed ASAP.
As it happens, Kris Kringle is right there to fill in and he is a natural because, well, he says he IS Santa Claus!
Alan King portrays Mr. Kringle and I couldn’t imagine anyone else in this role. His kindness and warmth comes through with every line. He plays wonderfully off of the other characters and had me believing right from the start! I especially loved his laugh; real and from the heart (or the belly, I’m not sure!).
Two of the adult leads are played by extraordinary newcomers to the RCP stage. They are also very comfortable and convincing in their parts.
Katie Mead has splendidly stepped into the role of Doris Walker. Doris works for Macy’s and it’s her job to infuse Christmas spirit into the shoppers while keeping sales high. This is no easy task for her as she has very little Christmas spirit herself.
Cynical and overprotective of Susan, her young daughter, Doris refuses to let herself buy in to anything magical about Christmas and doesn’t want Susan to believe in the fantasy of Santa.
She is even resistant to Fred, a dear friend of the family.
Lee Bradford plays Fred Gayley with a natural stage presence and a great smile. Fred is a kind-hearted, quick-thinking lawyer who wears his faith for all to see. He has genuine feelings for Doris and tries to gently break through her defensive armor.
He quickly befriends Kris Kringle and becomes his greatest ally in Kris’s hour of need: proving that Kris is indeed the real Santa!
Playing the role of Susan Walker is Delaney Dawson. Delany is no stranger to the stage and she is a perfect fit as Doris’ wise and witty daughter. Susan is one of the first children to befriend Kris and to believe that he is really Old Saint Nick.
RCP is fortunate to have such a talented young lady in their midst, but she is not alone. Other youth performers who do a wonderful job in their roles include Andrew Christmas, Aria Meo, Carly Buckley, Josie Doyle, Kendra Buckley, Leah Noe, Monica Davis, Skye Clifton, Tyler Amos and Wade Griffin.
These little and some-not-so-little performers fill in multiple roles and do so to perfection.
The elves will crack you up each time they are on stage, the kids are amazingly well behaved while waiting in line to see Santa, and Andrew takes on one of his largest parts to date as Mr. Macy’s very convincing “yes man,” Shellhammer.
As many of us know, sometimes the supporting characters can steal a scene. Well, the supporting characters in this show could almost steal the show! You simply can’t help yourself from laughing out loud at Miss Sawyer. Rachelle McCorkle (also a newcomer) is in perfect character every step she takes. It is her job as a counselor to evaluate Macy’s new employee and ensure he is stable and acceptable as Santa.
Kris’ claim of his real identity jingles her bells just a bit too much, and she soon causes all kinds of trouble for everyone.
Rachelle simply commands the stage each time she is on and audiences will be talking about her for weeks to come.
Two more supporting characters being played by RCP first-timers are Mr. Bloomingdale and Finley the Baliff. Anthony Noble is the strong, silent type as the court bailiff. His character is professional and blends well with the others. Terry McDaniel brings Mr. Bloomingdale to life as an adversary to RCP veteran Cory Bockover who plays Mr. Macy. Terry also has some great scenes offering friendly business and political advice to Mark Sloan.
In Act Two, Mark trades his flask in for a gavel as he doubles up to play a judge deciding Kris’ fate.
Rounding out the cast are many more familiar faces who grace the stage with their talents. Betsy Fox, Derek Davis, Amanda Locchetta, Angela Buckley, Whitley Griffin, Terri Sipes and Jess Schlechtweg. All of these performers do a superb job in their parts.
Terri plays the frustrated prosecuting attorney tasked with going up against Santa to prove he is a fraud.
Jess is sweet and caring as Dr. Pierce, Kris’ constant friend and defender.
All in all, the entire cast works in harmony together and draws you in to the story from start to finish.
The crew is just as dedicated and harmonious too. Director Matt Amos, assistant director Cindy Amos, and producer Shelli Griffin have put in weeks and weeks of dedicated hours making it all fall into place.
You can tell that costume wiz Donita Davis has been hard at work pulling all of the right pieces together for everyone.
Matt Griffin once again lends his technical skills to the production, assisted by a couple of fabulous protégés, Jacob and Nick Amos.
St Mary’s gym is a difficult beast to tame when it comes to sound, and these guys do great things to make sure everyone is heard loud and clear.
“Miracle on 34th Street” takes the stage at St. Mary Elementary at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Matt Amos has once again put his Christmas spirit out there for all to see by offering to donate 10 percent of ticket sales for each performance to other Rush County non-profit groups: The Boys & Girls Club will benefit from the Friday show. Rush County ARC will receive 10 percent of ticket sales from the Saturday performance, and the Sunday show will share its offering with the Toys for Tots program.
The bigger the audience, the bigger the donation to each of these groups. Tell all your friends to attend!
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students in grades K-12. Reserve them by calling 765-938-1711.
Take your family to see this traditional classic! You will be glad you did!
This time of year brings out the traditionalist in most all of us.
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