By David Dixon
Various Christmas-themed shows and musicals are returning to San Diego County this year. The Old Globe Theatre’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Cygnet Theatre’s version of “A Christmas Carol” and Lamb’s Players Theatre’s presentation of “An American Christmas” will continue to provide annual holiday entertainment.
Also returning is San Diego Musical Theatre’s encore run of the 2016 premiere, “Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play.” Given the unanimously positive reactions from critics and audiences, it’s no wonder the story is back at the Horton Grand Theatre.
With the exception of a new director, local resident Brian Rickel, and several fresh cast members, the staging will be similar to the 2016 family event. Just as in the 1947 classic movie and the Lux Radio Hour Theatre broadcast interpretation, the tale is about a man, Kris Kringle, who is given the chance to play Santa Claus at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. After he starts working at the department store, Kris begins to tell others that he really is Saint Nick.
One of his main goals is to persuade Macy’s special events director Doris Walker (Janaya Jones) and her daughter Susan (Cassidy Smith) that he is an honest man.
Once again, the stars portray fictitious players of radio station KSDMT. Don’t worry if this might sound confusing. Lance Arthur Smith’s adaptation never gets overly complicated.
Capturing the musical styles of the 1940s is Bankers Hill resident Jon Lorenz. He is the music director, composer and arranger for the tale.
While several well-known tunes are referenced, many of the melodies are original. Some of Lorenz’s influences in creating the tunes are Rodgers and Hart, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland films, popular 1930s and 1940s standards, and harmony singing.
“Our piece is set in the late ’40s, so the creative team decided that everything before then is fair game,” he said.
Lux Radio’s version is a popular retelling of the narrative. However, it isn’t the only notable version that was produced after the release of the motion picture. A Hollywood remake, TV adaptations and a Meredith Willson musical called “Here’s Love” all came out after the movie box office hit premiered in theaters.
There are several different reasons as to why the story continues to be a highly regarded classic. What leaves an emotional impact on Lorenz is the empathetic optimism of the evening.
“The original screenplay plays into a part of humanity that wants to believe in the best of people,” he said. “There’s something about this time of year that feels like a new beginning and a chance to start over.”
After the original engagement closed, the script was published by Steele Spring Stage Rights. It is exciting that Smith’s take on the narrative will begin playing at Bridge House Theatre in London from Nov. 27 to Dec. 23.
San Diegans who missed the uplifting experience last year won’t have to wait long to enjoy the fresh take on the Christmas-themed comedy-drama. If you’ve never heard a radio show before, KSDMT will leave a strong first impression.
— A fan of film and theater from a very young age, David Dixon has written reviews and features for various print and online publications. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.