Miracle in Eastbourne
The stage musical of the famous movie Miracle on 34th Street has been on at The Royal Hippodrome Theatre as part of a longer tour. Quite enchanting.
Is there a real Father Christmas? Can his existence be denied? It might take two hours and a lot of singing and dancing to find out the answer, but the time goes so fast because you know you believe that he really does exist – and is live on the stage in front of you.
Hannah Thompson is the juvenile lead, Claire Hawkins her mother, and Carl Lindquist the male love interest. Daughter Susan wants a dad, and Kris Kringle, who is hired by Macy’s New York department store to be Santa Claus, played by Danny Lane, makes her wishes come true.
The scenery changes occur subtly, changing from outside Macy’s store with the parade passing by, to a living room. The second half courtroom was especially prominent, used to good effect.
There is one lady who comes on throughout in different guises, initially as part of Macy’s parade, then as the housekeeper with a phony dog, a nurse, a court reporter, and throughout she gurns to the audience. Very strange stage-craft, and you find yourself drawn to watch out for her in every scene. The dog scene is especially bizarre, as you wonder what she and the dog being manipulated by sticks can possibly add to the scene. An unusual distraction.
19 year old Hannah as Susie is especially talented, with a believable portrayal of a character very much younger. Claire Hawkins brought her experience as an actress to the quality of her role, and Danny lane was completely believable as Santa Claus. If I lost that faith when achieving adulthood, I left the theatre knowing that Father Christmas really does exist. And he can sing as well.
The movie was originally made in 1947, and in 1963 it was turned into a stage musical by Meredith Willson, who also wrote the Music Man. Some of the tunes reminded me of this, I had no idea that ‘It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas’ was a number, and there were two exceptionally strong second half numbers in ‘She Hadda Go Back’ and ‘My State, My Kansas’.
The story relies on the perils of Santa Claus, will he be locked up in an institution because he knows he is the real thing? Or will he live happily ever after in Macy’s department store, making miracles come true. The clue is in the title of the show.
This is a Paul Taylor-Mills production, and is touring round the UK. It is of a very high standard, with polished performances, strongly rehearsed, quality singing, excellent choreography, I have seen many musicals over the years and this rates very highly. There is a 40ft articulated lorry full of scenery and props to accompany the production, from costumes to courtroom.
Be prepared for lots of almost real fake snow at the end, wonder what the theatre cleaner makes of it!
Harry Pope is Eastbourne’s sight-seeing guide, with summer walks as well as private one on request www.harrythewalker.com He also talks to local clubs and societies on a variety of topics www.harrythetalker.com He writes on www.harrythewriter.com