Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Miracle on 34th Street

Albuquerque Little Theatre
Review by Carole C. Sullivan

Also see Carole's review of A Christmas Carol

Mike Van Ryzin, Maria Held, and Isabel Arenas
Photo by Jason Ponic Photography
So many plays and musicals are adapted from movies that were originally adapted from plays that it is hard to know when we have gone too far in using the same material over and over. Of course, theatre has a long tradition of adapting that goes back to Shakespeare and the commedia dell'arte to name just two examples. In 1982, Mountain Community Theater in California adapted Miracle on 34th Street from the story by Valentine Davies and based on the 1947 film. The Albuquerque Little Theatre production of this play has much to recommend it, but it has not solved the problem of taking something that is cinematic and translating it to the realities of a live production.

Of course, how do you get the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on a proscenium stage, and how do you successfully simulate scenes in a crowded department store or a courtroom? And then how do you jump immediately to an intimate scene for two or three people on a sofa or at a table? These transitions are disjointed. The set and the set changes seem to work against the action of the play. The pace of the action is halted. Simplifying the set, having less moving of furniture, and using focused lighting for small scenes could have helped. An overall cohesive sound design and music would facilitate the changes, improve the flow, and complete the holiday feel of the production.

But the production is still very satisfying. Some of the acting is first rate, beginning with Mike Van Ryzin as Kris Kringle. He is a near perfect Santa in every way. A relative newcomer to the Albuquerque theatre scene, he is a welcome addition. Eric John Werner brings stalwart decency to the role of Fred Gayley and displays good comic timing. Tim Reardon as Mr. Sawyer, Eddie Dethlefs as Dr. Pierce, Tim Maxwell as Judge Harper, and Jim Pinkston as Mr. Halloran are all excellent in their character roles. ALT would seem to have found the mother lode of older experienced male actors for this production.

Isabel Arenas is relaxed and totally believable as young Susan Walker, as she loosens up and learns to have imagination. Other children in the cast are also excellent. Maria Nicole Held is fine as Doris Walker, the accomplished working woman, but she seems uncomfortable in Doris' scenes with Susan and Fred. Carolyn Hogan as Ms. Shellhammer and Ronda Lewis as Ms. Mara lend vigorous support.

Miracle on 34th Street is set in the early 1940s and many of the costumes capture the period, but there are some more modern dresses and 1980s women's suits that stick out (was that really someone in a Yeti costume at the Macy's parade?). The ensemble of minor characters and the children who play elves fill out the production. They seem to wander a bit as they move through the scenes and need more specific direction.

There is a great deal of talent in this production, and the Albuquerque Little Theatre has an outstanding physical plant and is honored to be celebrating its 90th Anniversary. Excellence is close if they remember the pace and overall feel of the show and make sure that all the pieces fit. Still the audience loved the show and left full of holiday spirit. It is also good to note that this show runs right up to Christmas Eve!

Miracle on 34th Street runs through December 24, 2019, at Albuquerque Little Theatre, 224 San Pasquale SW, Albuquerque, NM. Tickets are $23, $21, $19, $15. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:00, with extra shows on Saturday, December 14 at 2:00, Thursday, December 19 at 7:30, Monday, December 23 at 7:30 and Tuesday, December 24 at 1:00. For tickets and information please call 505-242-4750 or visit>

The Cast: Maria Held, Isabel Arenas, Mike Van Ryzin, Eric John Werner, Carolyn Hogan, Tim Reardon, Eddie Dethlefs, Tin Maxwell, Ronda Lewis, Jim Pinkston, Kassandra Carpenter, Selena Cuevas, Sedona Fields-Haley, Guinivere Mayse, Jasmine Radfarr, Jayna Rardin, Sofia Rowe, Beckett Carroll, Lucca Kerkmans, Hayden Moody, Tala Trujillo, Deedra Wohlgemuth, Arthur Alpert, Joel Ballard, Mona Campbell, Paula Dunlap, Avalon Gutierrez, Shannon Rowe, Linda Sklov, Linda Sweet, Steve Weitz.