By Janee Law
Northport Village was filled with holiday cheer last Thursday night as people shuffled into the John W. Engeman Theater to witness a musical take on the classic Christmas tale of “Miracle on 34th Street.”
Performers of Engeman’s production embodied the characters of the Meredith Willson musical, which was written in 1963 and based on the 1947 film “Miracle on 34th Street.”
Under the direction of Richard T. Dolce and with choreography by Antoniette DiPietropolo, theEngeman performance successfully delivered the tale about a man who claims to be the real Santa Claus and ends up uniting the New York City community.
With his all of white hair and calming glow, Kevin McGuire gave a remarkable performance as the wise and jolly Kris Kringle. Entering the stage in the opening scene, McGuire was the spitting image of Richard Attenborough, who portrayed the character in the 1994 remake of the film.
Sophia Eleni Kekllas, an adorable young actress who played Susan Walker, a mature and hopeful little girl who initially doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, also lit up the stage, delivering each line with wit and charm.
Along with the theme of Christmas, the heartwarming relationships among the characters were a strong aspect that made watching the musical enjoyable.
In “A Playground in Central Park” scene, Fred Gaily (Aaron Ramey) is a father figure that Susan Walker (Sophia Eleni Kekllas) never had, and when Susan asks Fred to be her father, a collective “aw” came from the audience.
While Susan is often spoken to as if she was an adult by her mother, Doris Walker (Kim Carson), the scene “Arm in Arm” interpreted a strong-loving bond between the characters.
Fred and Doris go from having a tension-filled, love-hate relationship to finally embracing their affection for one another with a kiss.
Meanwhile, Marvin Shellhammer [Matt Wolpe] and R.H. Macy [Bill Nolte] were naturals at delivering comic relief throughout the play, particularly in the courtroom scenes and numbers like “That Man Over There” and “My State, My Kansas.”
Afterward, the reviews from audience members were positive.
“I enjoyed it very much,” said Theresa Smalley, 63, of Babylon. “The actresses and actors gave us a great performance and it’s such a good old story…that no matter how many times I see it I never get tired. It warms your heart.”
John Piccirillo, 70, also from Babylon, said the show gave a nice take on the wonderful classic and was very refreshing.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s really fun and it’s worth it,” said Kekllas, 11, of Manhasset, about playing Susan. Kekllas said that her favorite scene is the number “What’s Love,” because it’s when Santa spreads love to the community of 34th Street.
“A lot of people would think that being on stage is scary, but that’s my safe place,” she said, smiling. “It’s the place where I like to be all the time.”
John W. Engeman Theater will be hosting “Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical” until Jan. 3, 2016. Shows are between Thursdays and Sundays and tickets range from $69-$74.
For more information, visit engemantheater.com.