Photo courtesy of Theatre Bristol.
It’s no secret that Theatre Bristol has struggled in recent years to continue the mission of providing quality, family friendly entertainment that founder Catherine DeCaterina set out for the nonprofit organization nearly five decades ago.
That’s precisely why current board president Mike Musick believes Theatre Bristol’s upcoming production of “Miracle on 34th Street” is a miracle in itself.
“There are a lot of wonderful theater groups in our area, a lot of wonderful nonprofit groups in our area, and we’re all competing for a lot of the same dollars. We’re all very worthy organizations, and so just pulling all of this off and getting the support and getting the backing, not only from a financial standpoint but from the number of people that are getting excited about this and that are getting involved, it’s like its own little ‘Miracle on State Street,’ if you will,” Musick said. “Like a lot of nonprofits, we’ve struggled and we’ve had our issues over the years, and we still do. We’re still dealing with some things we know we’ve got to shore up, but we’re focusing on what we know that we do best and that is quality, family friendly productions that young and old alike can get involved in and come out and see.”
“Miracle on 34th Street” opens Friday at Theatre Bristol’s ARTspace on State Street and continues with performances at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m., Sundays, through Dec. 15.
Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children, students and seniors over 60.
“It’s just a great classic, family friendly holiday story, and we are really trying to focus our energies on doing that type of material,” Musick said. “We started as a children’s theater and we have done both children and adult shows over the years and we just felt like that there is a niche in the region for good quality, family friendly productions both that kids and teenagers and families can not only go see but participate in. We have so many families involved in this production that it’s really neat. We’re trying to foster those kind of activities and those kind of relationships within the community and just really shine a spotlight on local talent, local involvement, and this story itself is one of hope, it’s one of learning to believe, if you will, not just in Santa Claus, but stretching one’s beliefs, finding the faith to believe in something that is good.”
Twentieth Century Fox brought the beloved holiday tale by Valentine Davies to the silver screen in 1947, with a young Natalie Wood starring as Susan Walker. Maureen O’Hara played her mother, Doris, and Edmund Gwenn was Kris Kringle. Musick said Theatre Bristol’s version is based on that original film, and was adapted for the stage by Mountain Community Theatre.
By chance, Kris Kringle, an old man in a retirement home, gets a job working as Santa for Macy’s. Kris unleashes waves of goodwill with Macy’s customers and the commercial world of New York City by referring parents to other stores to find exactly the toy their child has asked for. Seen as deluded and dangerous by Macy’s vocational counselor, who plots to have Kris shanghaied to Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, Kris ends up in a court competency hearing. Especially at stake is one little girl’s belief in Santa. In a dramatic decision, the court confirms Kris as the true Santa, allowing Susan and countless other children to experience the joy of childhood fantasy.
Bringing the tale to life on Theatre Bristol’s stage is a cast of more than two dozen actors, directed by long-time Theatre Bristol collaborator Glenn Patterson. Kris is played by John Runde. Lauren Turner and Audrey Chapman alternate in the role of Susan, the 7-year-old girl who learns to believe, and her mother, the skeptical and guarded Doris Walker, is played by Meaghan Gray. Michael Gerber stars as optimistic attorney Fred Galey.
Rounding out the cast are SaBrina King, Steve Basket, Michael Lester, Lindsay Marshall, Lily Osborne, Ginny Osborne, Daniel Osborne, Miriam Price, Lilly Price, Ian Price, Cassidy Brunson, Haley Brunson, Molly Johnson, Grace Johnson, Abigail Hill, Lacey Williams, Jacob Alvis, Torey Walk, Ethan Riffey, Rori Simmons, Iona Blackburn, Eliza McClellan, Daniel Freeman, Carson Musick and Mike Musick.
“Everybody is going to be looking for something to do during the holidays, and there’s a lot of neat stuff to get out there and do,” Musick said. “Thursday, everybody is going to spend the day eating. Friday, they’re going to spend the day shopping. Come Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday, all those family members that are in town that you’re looking to do something with, this is the perfect opportunity. We’ve never opened a show on Thanksgiving weekend, so this is a little bit of a calculated gamble on our part, but we’re banking on people looking for something to do. People are going to be in the holiday spirit, they will have watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning, and this play takes off of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. They’re going to be in the mood for Christmas, so what better way to kick off your Christmas season than catching some live theater with some very talented local folks that you may see walking through the store.
“That’s one of the neat things about this. It’s everyday people up there on that stage. It’s not trained professional actors, it’s people doing it in the truest sense of the word ‘amateur.’ If you look up the word amateur, it’s doing something for the love of it, and that’s what community theatre is all about.”
For reservations or more information, call Theatre Bristol at (423) 383-5979. Leave a message if there is no answer.