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Potomac Theatre Company It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

By • Nov 29th, 2009 • Category: Reviews

Originally titled Here’s Love, It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas is the musical version of the movie Miracle on 34th Street with book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Willson.

This classic, feel good Christmas production featured a well prepared orchestra (conducted by Alvin Smithson), gorgeous period costumes (Eleanor B. Dicks) and hair design, a simple set (with a video projection providing most of the scenery), and actors that didn’t seem to have a spark between each other.

Fred Gaily (Ken Kemp) was a confirmed bachelor and ex-marine who was very open to believing in Santa Claus. From his meeting of young skeptic Susie Walker (Mary Sorensen) on his doorstep through the competency hearing of Kris Kingle (Vin Kelly), Gaily tried to share the Christmas spirit. Susie’s hurting mother Doris (Jessica May) was suspicious of Fred’s motives, and May was effective in portraying a strong woman, allowing the audience to see a few cracks while putting Susie to bed late at night.

There was a spark between Kemp and Sorenson. The two of them had a comfortable rapport that was fun to watch. Kemp and May’s relationship was a bit more uneven, May seemed to be nervous and uncomfortable around Kemp, even in the show’s odd climax at the toy department. Vin Kelly’s Kris Kringle was a kindly older gentleman that looked the part (with real whiskers!). Kelly seemed to lack confidence in the role, although his scene with Hendrika, the little Dutch girl (Lily Tender), was delightful.

There were some technical issues (most notably a buzz from the sound system) that marred the flow of the show. The dancing also seemed a bit awkward at times and the animations on the projection screen were distracting and amateurish. It would have been more effective to have the actors “see” the items that were being projected (such as the huge parade balloons), then the audience could have used our imaginations to see the items. The scene changes were completed quickly and smoothly. The signage posted on the brick wall should have used a larger typeface, it was difficult to read and was more distracting than helpful in setting the scene.

Although this production was a bit uneven, it is a family friendly way to start the holiday season.

Director’s Notes

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m one of “those” people…the people who immediately turn on their radio dial to 97.1 when the station starts playing holiday music., who get giddy when Strbucks brings back the pumpkin spice latte, and who has their holiday shopping done by Halloween. Yes, the holiday season is my favorite time of year! (Mock me if you will.) And that explains why, when the opportunity to direct It’s Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas came along , I jumped at the chance. The story of Doris, Fred, little Susan and Kris Kringle is a classic – although I have to admit I’ve never actually seen the movie on which the musical is based. It’s the story’s essence, however, that that makes it a classic…a tale of people searching for that elusive “something” and the stranger-turned-friend who helps them see that if they have faith, what they really wanted was right there waiting for them.

We’re all looking for “something” during the holidays – peace, goodwill towards men, the perfect gift for our in-laws. Yet, in the early part of the 21st century, where family dinners are a rarity, this story still has the power to bring us back to the “gentler times” where work pressure, family pressure, and the pressure of worldwide events can be set aside. Instead, we can take time to admire the beautifully trimmed tree, enjoy the company of good friends and family, and listen for pitter-patter of reindeer hooves on the roof. To me, that’s what the holiday season is all about. As you watch the show, I hope that you will find what you are looking for, too. (And if you want to find me after the show, I’ll be at the nearest Blockbuster renting Miracle on 34th Street!)

Alex Scopeletis, Director

Cast

  • Susan: Mary Sorensen
  • Street Vendor/Shopper/Governor/Alvin/Bailiff: Tony Pisarra
  • Man/Shopper/Mayor/Whitey/Court Spectator/Marine/Delivering Mail: Jim Holland
  • Woman/Sales Clerk/Clara/Court Spectator: Joy Gerst
  • Child/Hendrika: Lily Tender
  • Kris Kringle: Vin Kelly
  • Fred Gaily: Ken Kemp
  • Child/Tommy Mara, Jr.: Sean Healy
  • Woman/Hendrika’s Mother/Girl Scout/Court Spectator: Tricia Weiler
  • Man/Troubled Type/Mr. Sawyer/Mr. Gimbel/Climber/Mailman/Marine Delivering Mail: Thomas Copas
  • Child/ Harry Finfer: Brandon Sheridan
  • Miss Muffet/Mrs. Finfer/Miss Sims/Court Spectator: Wendy Katzen
  • Man/Policeman/Tammany/Watchman: Tom mcRoberts
  • Woman/Sales Clerk/Court Spectator: Colleen Healy
  • Woman/Sales Clerk/Miss Crookshank/Court Spectator: Melanie Williams
  • Man/Judge Group: Gordon Kiefer
  • Fake Santa/Shopper/D.A Thomas Mara: Brian Polk
  • Shellhammer: Ryan Barone
  • Doris: Jessica May
  • Mr. Macy: Dave Robinson

The Like Christmas Orchestra

  • Conductor: Alvin Smithson
  • Woodwinds: Dana Gardner, Renae Smith, Mitch Bassman
  • Violin: Steve Natrella, Michele Jacobs
  • Viola: Margie Bassman
  • Cello: Virginia Gardner
  • Trumpet: Earl Smith, Curt Antine
  • Trombone: Steve Ward
  • Bass: David Burrelli
  • Percussion: Ric Okin, John Hage
  • Keyboards: nan Muntzing, Alvin Smithson

The Like Christmas Production Team

  • Director: Alex Scopeletis
  • Music Director: Alvin Smithson
  • Choreographer: Glenda Chapin Henderson
  • Producer: Barry Hoffman
  • Production Stage Manager: Tammi T. Gardner
  • Stage Manager: Rachel Kepnes
  • Scenic Design: Joseph Wallen
  • Scenic Artist: Anne Martinez
  • Lighting Design: Steve Deming
  • Sound Consultant: David Steigerwald
  • Costume Designer: Eleanor B. Dicks
  • Props & Set Dressing: Sonya Okin
  • Rehearsal Pianist/Vocal Coach: Nan Muntzing
  • Light operator: Steve Deming
  • Sound operator: Jeff Kellum
  • Set Construction Supervisor: Alan Beck
  • Set Construction: Alan Beck, Ray Durante, Elie & Ted Cain, John Buckley, Ronan Sorensen, Joseph Wallen
  • Photographer: Harvey Levine
  • Publicity: Ken Kemp, Marilyn Shockey, Suzi Hoffman
  • House Manager: Elie Cain
  • Playbill: Marilyn Shockey

Disclaimer: Potomac Theatre Company provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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