Having trouble feeling the Christmas spirit amidst the stress of finals? Waco Civic Theatre has the perfect remedy with its presentation of “Miracle on 34th Street.”
The show runs from today through Dec.13 at the Waco Civic Theatre at 1517 Lake Air Drive. Many of the shows have sold out, but there are still tickets available to the 2:30 p.m. show on Saturday and Dec. 12, as well as the 7:30 p.m. show on Dec. 10. Tickets are $16 for students, military and seniors and $18 for adults. Tickets are available online at wacocivictheatre.org.
“The show is sentimental, and you know it’s coming, but you still feel it,” said Waco Civic Theatre director, Eric Shepard. “I think it’s a show you want to like and you end up liking despite yourself.”
The Civic Theatre rotates its Christmas shows to give its audience and performers variety, Shepard said. The secular nature of “Miracle of 34th Street” appeals to a broad audience, which makes the show a good fit for the community. The play makes much of childlike wonder, which is something Shepard said he thinks the audience will enjoy.
“We try to reach a variety of audiences and this is right down the middle of the road. It’s geared toward families and its around holiday time,” Shepard said. “It’s part of our mission to reach as many people as possible.”
The show allows for 12 children in the Waco community to get involved in the cast.
“We have to train ‘em up young,” Shepard said.
Director Shelby English said working with kids poses a different challenge for her than when she works with adults.
“I love to get on their level of thinking and wrangling and stuff,” English said. “They’ve only lived so much life but the easiest thing for them is to relate it to something they can attach it to.”
“Miracle on 34th Street” was first made as a movie in 1947 before it was adapted for the stage. Shepard said the strong female lead represented in Doris’ character put the show ahead of its time.
“One of the great things that Maureen O’Hara did in the original movie is that she managed to portray a very tough-minded person who is also sympathetic,” Shepard said. “You have to take special care to the characterization of Doris because you never want to doubt that she’s a good mother, you never want to doubt that she’s committed to her career, you never want to doubt that the decisions that she makes are really for the best interest of the child even if they’re strange.”
The piece reflects a certain time period. In accordance with the 40s and 50s, the actor playing Doris must adopt the mindset of a woman living in that time.
“As a period show, she has to have a way of standing and a way of gesturing which is appropriate for the time,” Shepard said. “That helps us participate in the magic of the show.”
Shepard said the twist of Santa being put on trial evokes a creativity when directing. In “Miracle on 34h Street,” the jurors must decide whether or not to preserve the idea that Santa is real. Shepard said he believes this difficulty causes adults in the audience to think hard about the magic of Christmas.
“We all play along, we know it’s a lie but we tell it anyway. Why do we do that? Why is it important to us?” Shepard said. “I think it’s a question that’s intriguing to an adult and they’re going to think about why they do that with their kids. Their sense of wonder and joy in the Christmas season will be evoked.”