‘Miracle on 34th Street’ is smaller, more intimate option among Chicago holiday shows

It’s not Christmas in Chicago without taking in a least one holiday performance in the city-from Nutcrackers to Scrooge, Chicago has a bit of everything. This year my family decided to bypass some of the larger performances and instead head to Stage 773 for Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of “The Miracle on 34thStreet.”

About 50 audience members surrounded the stage in this intimate theater, where local actors brought the story of Santa and Macy’s to life.

In this remake of the holiday classic, Christa Buck plays Doris Walker, a jaded single mom and Macy’s employee, who has taught her daughter Susan that Santa is nothing but a story. Enter Kris Kringle, played superbly (and with just the perfect white beard) by Jim Sherman, who takes over as the Macy Santa and sets out to convince both Doris and Susan that he’s the real deal.

My daughter loved watching Nicole Karkazis as Susan. She had just the right mix of the cynical child who has been taught by her mother not to believe in Santa Claus, along with the wonder of a child who really wants to believe. Matched up with Fred Gailey, played by David Heimann, they set out to prove to the world that Kris Kringle really is Santa Claus.

A couple things we really loved about this performance-the holiday carols sang by cast members during set changes and the audience interaction. In one of the opening scenes, when several actors were lined up onstage to visit Santa, they also had three children from the audience take part in sitting on Santa’s lap and talking to the man in red. The unrehearsed dialogue was charming to everyone in the audience, not just the children’s parents. It lent a “real” feel to this wonderful Santa Claus story.

The only part of this show that might be a challenge for younger children is the lack of an intermission. The show ran about 90 minutes, and because the theater is so small, it’s difficult to slip out for a bathroom break without disrupting the performance. Aside from that, this is a great way to celebrate the holiday season with young children. We loved every minute of it.

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