It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Opera House in Manchester, the UK tour of Miracle on 34th street lights up the stage to bringing to life the classic Christmas film.
Set in New York it tells the story of Macy’s store worker Doris Walker (Claire Hawkins) who employs Kris Kringle to be the department store’s Santa Claus (Danny Lane). Doris doesn’t believe in Santa Claus and informs her daughter Susan (Hannah Thompson) that he isn’t real and she shouldn’t believe in fantasies.
Whilst not the most vocally strong performance, the ensemble’s energy is dynamic and full of Christmas spirit. Mirroring the dashing Christmas score, the choreography is festive although it could be tightened up. However a highlight for me is the scene in Santa’s Grotto when the toys come alive and perform a beautiful ballet inspired number.
Costumer designer Susan Kulkarni does a fabulous job reflecting the era of the story, all the wintery outfits are the epitome of an old fashioned Christmas film, with furry coats and matching hats. Both the costumes and set are exuberant and bright, sprinkling the stage with Christmas cheer.
Young Hannah Thompson who plays Susan Walker oozes with professionalism, with strong vocals and convincing characterisation, her sweetness is heartwarming. Her mother Doris played by Claire Hawkins is impeccable as the leading lady, she exudes the beauty and charming persona particularly in her touching duet with her daughter.
Doris is seduced by the endearing Fred Gaily played by Carl Lindquist, his movement and vocals are enchanting as he tries to transform Doris and Susan’s cynicism about Christmas. Brendan Matthew provides most of the laughs as the ever so camp store assistant Marvin Shellhammer who insists singing is the most effective way to boost sales at Macy’s.
Danny Lane provides a stand out performance as the winsome Kris Kringle, he lights up the stage with his jubilant presence and joyeous nature. Whilst sometimes the other characters acting seems slightly forced, Danny maintains the composure of Santa Claus and his performance is faultless.
The show itself seems slightly dated and could have been modernised for the stage, although some of the festive favourites such as “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” are thrown in. Despite the songs being full of jingle bells and highly Christmassy, some of the show’s score seems irrelevant. Such as “Hadda Go Back,” a song about a woman who forgets her gloves.
However for a family show it is the perfect combination of a cheesy Christmas song and dance, alongside a love story. Everything about the production screams holiday cheer especially the sing-a-long finale of Christmas songs whilst snow falls in the audience.
Perfect for children, Miracle on 34th Street brings the magic of Christmas to the Opera House in Manchester until the 25th of November and tickets are available here.