After a couple of years of playing Kris Kringle, Peter Gelblum has traded in his Santa cap for a director’s hat.
Maybe he’s looking to change things up, or maybe it’s that he hasn’t quite gone gray enough yet. Regardless, his new role suits him, and Mountain Community Theater’s new Santa Claus, Jackson Wolffe, fills Gelbum’s boots ably.
MCT is rounding out their 36th season with Miracle on 34th Street, a tried and true original classic not only as a film, but also for the theater. Now in their 10th installment of the show, Miracle on 34th Street was MCT’s first show ever after opening its doors in 1982.
The founders and original cast members wrote a new version of the play adapted from the 1947 black-and-white film starring Maureen O’Hara and Edmund Gwenn. MCT’s latest production has its own modern twists, of course, including cell phones and online holiday shopping.
No, Miracle on 34th Street never goes out of style. Despite having probably seen the film’s heartwarming ending, the thought of committing Santa Claus to a mental institution is enough to keep children and adults alike on the edge of their seats. Still, Miracle seems particularly important this holiday season. In a year filled with so much sadness and anger, particularly in the aftermath of disasters across California, I had a little extra appreciation for Gelblum and the cast’s determination to bring the holiday spirit to the stage.
In fact, the very existence of MCT’s Miracle is somewhat of a miracle in its own right. After losing the rights to produce and publish the play 10 years ago, Gelblum, also an attorney, sought to regain them from 20th Century Fox. Gelblum’s brother represented Fox, and they were able to make a deal to insure that MCT could continue their Miracle legacy.
This time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in the details, the prices and the planning of the holidays. Some of us are already on the edge of panic over Christmas presents and party planning, and there’s still Thanksgiving turkey in the fridge.
Too many holiday shows leave cast members and audiences alike drowning in red bows and holiday lights, or on the contrary, throw a fat man in a red suit and expect it to just “work.”
It’s no easy feat to put on a successful holiday show, particularly one rooted in so much history and tradition. MCT’s Miracle promised extra laughter and warmth, and delivered both.
This Miracle is a gentle reminder that though the holidays are drawing near, there’s no need to stress, because they are about more than planning and presents. It’s silly and goofy, with a good amount of holiday carolling for a hefty two-and-a-half-hour production (including intermission), and the heart of it all is community.
There’s nothing particularly profound or provocative about Miracle—but then again, there doesn’t need to be. I don’t know if it was the holiday lights, the extra-convincing Santa Claus or the trio of young, somewhat clumsy unionized elves—but I left feeling like there’s enough enchantment to breathe a little magic into the most shriveled holiday hearts. To the Santa Claus naysayers and holiday pessimists: I believe the front seats are reserved for you.
MCT’s ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ runs Friday-Sunday at 2 and 8 p.m. through Sunday, Dec. 9. 9400 Mill St., Ben Lomond. 336-4777. mctshows.org. $10-$20.