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Theater Review: “Miracle on 34th Street”

“Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play” runs through December 23, 2018 at the Horton Grand Theatre, 444 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter.

Well, Doris (Katie Banville) doesn’t, for one. She is a very efficient, no-nonsense events chair at Macy’s who not only doesn’t believe in Santa, she has even disabused her young daughter Susie (Isabella Pruter) of such foolish notions

But when Macy’s has to hire somebody in a hurry to replace the three-sheets-to-the-wind Santa they’d originally hired, a nice gray-haired gent named Kristofer Van Lisberg (Ralph Johnson) applies for the job. He not only *looks* like Santa, he claims to *be* the very spirit of Christmas.

Doris is horrified, especially when this Santa defies orders to suggest overstocked toys to tots who don’t come prepared with a list, or who want something Macy’s doesn’t carry. Santa will eventually tangle with the store’s psychologist as well, and will eventually end up in court defending his identity.

Never fear, Santa wins. And makes a believer of little Susie. And even softens up mom a bit.

“Miracle on 34th Street: a Live Musical Radio Play,” adapted from the1947 Lux Radio Hour broadcast, is back at the Horton Grand Theatre through Dec. 23. It’s the third year for San Diego Musical Theatre’s delightful production of this show.

Set designer Michael McKeon has provided a wonderful background of New York skyscrapers lit up for this show. Staged like a radio program with audience, the theater has “applause” signs that flash at the right time, an onstage piano for versatile host Alex Mialdo (Andrew Orbison) to play and three stand-up microphones for the cast to use.

Johnson is perfect as Santa (aka Kristofer Van Lisberg), winning over the skeptics (and the court) with his down-home humanity and kindness.

Emma Nossal’s Olivia lends a golden voice to her songs. Bryan Banville is amusing as Doris’ frustrated but insistent suitor Grady. And Wallace Ainsley (Steven Freitas) adds several characters to the mix.

Neil Dale directs the production. The charming script is by Lance Arthur Smith. I loved Jon Lorenz’s music, especially the close-harmony arrangements of favorite carols.

“Miracle on 34th Street” is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.

The details

“Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play” runs through December 23, 2018 at the Horton Grand Theatre, 444 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter.

Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 4 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (877) 778-1258 or sdmt.org