Midcentury musical tackles commercialism with help from a jolly ol' ally
Director's Notes: Miracle on 34th Street
November 7, 2019
Every year when the holidays roll around I find myself bemoaning the commercialism that accompanies the season. I know I’m not alone in wondering when consumption became such a large part of the equation. When did the jingles on television grow louder than the jingle of the bells?
Miracle on 34th Street is the antidote to this problem. We are delighted to share this classic Christmas story with the Fort Wayne community. Based on the 1947 movie of the same name, the musical by Meredith Willson (The Music Man) taps into the sense of wonder we had as children and examines themes no less than faith and reason, belief and evidence, and the possibility of miracles. It invites us to open our hearts to the miracles and embrace the wonder of life.
Our story begins when a man named Kris Kringle shows up just in time to save the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade from ruin when the contracted Santa Claus becomes indisposed. In the tradition of all of the best magical realism, the original author of the story, Valentine Davies, weaves elements of magic into this perfectly normal post WWII world.
But will the characters recognize and embrace the possibility of love that Santa Claus is offering? Will they take this leap of faith? Or will pragmatism, cynicism, and consumerism win the day?
If proof is needed that Santa Claus is real, what could that look like? Our leading man finds a clever answer in the form of letters to Santa. Due to the importance of these letters to the story, we wanted to include them in the set design as well as in another moment of magical realism late in act two.
On a related note, the United States Post Office reported that in 1948, the year after the Miracle movie was released, letters to Santa Claus increased by 25 percent.
If a movie has the power to make that sort of impact on mail delivery in 1947, what might a musical in 2019 be able to affect? It is our hope that this production will entertain, elicit precious memories, and stir viewers to remember the wonder of this beautiful life. It is a call to action to love one another regardless of our differences. The time is now.
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