Arts & Entertainment

Check out the Holiday ‘Miracle’ in Yorktown this Weekend

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James Gerth stars as Kris Kringle in the musical “Miracle on 34th Street” at Yorktown Stage through Sunday, Nov. 26. Credits: Douglas DeMarco/Brown Paper Bag
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YORKTOWN, N.Y. -- With this year’s Indian summer finally giving way to wintry weather, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Over on Veterans Road in Yorktown, it’s looking even more like Christmas, thanks to Yorktown Stage’s mirthful, musical production of the beloved Hollywood classic “Miracle on 34th Street.” 

Originally on Broadway in the 1960s under the title “Here’s Love,” the holiday confection has songs by Meredith Willson, who immortalized himself by writing the lyrics and music for “The Music Man.” 

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Even though his musical numbers for “Miracle” do not have the ring of familiarity of a “76 Trombones” or “Till There Was You,” they are by turns thoroughly pleasant and infectious, with some echoes of spirited “Music Man” tunes like “Ya Got Trouble.”

There are fun songs for the kids, like “Plastic Alligators” and the opening number, “Big Clown Balloons,” and there are more adult ballads, like “You Don’t Know,” plus a song everyone will recognize in “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” (Written in 1951 by Mr. Willson, it already was a holiday standard and conveniently plugged into this show.) 

To briefly recount the family-friendly fantasy, Doris Walker (Christine DiTota) works at Macy’s, and hires a man who calls himself Kris Kringle (James Gerth) as the new Santa. Doris’s 6-year-old daughter Susan (Alyssa Emily Marvin) believes in Kris, while her no-nonsense mom, a single parent, sees him as an actor hired by the department store, just like any other Santa impersonator. 

Along comes neighbor Fred Gailey (Jason Fogarty), a lawyer, to befriend Susan and, ultimately, win over Doris as well, while also championing Kris as the real deal.

As anyone who’s seen the movie will agree, the Oscar-winning story and the theatricality work their magic only if Kris Kringle is, well, believable. Yorktown Stage could not have a better or more ebullient actor in the central role than the inimitable James Gerth, a Broadway-seasoned performer who brings it all to this role.

It’s hard to disassociate your mind’s eye from the same character created indelibly on screen by Edmund Gwenn in the 1947 film, and Mr. Gerth virtually channels that performance in the best way possible. He is charming, compassionate, and bellows happy, hearty ho-ho-hos that echo throughout the theater.

As Doris Walker, veteran actor Christine DiTota brings to the stage a very strong presence that is both brassy and bountiful in musical and acting talent, a winning combination that helps propel the critical scenes that she anchors. 

In counterpoint to Doris, Jason Fogarty is well cast as soothing, sensible legal eagle Fred Gailey.

Alyssa Emily Marvin impresses in the role of Susan (played on screen by Natalie Wood), with an easy confidence and obvious acting chops that avoid the too-cutesy mannerisms that can trip up less skilled young performers. She is a joy to watch.

The entire cast, from the oldest to the youngest, appears to have fun on stage, which usually has the same effect on the audience. Yorktown Stage mainstay Douglas DeMarco is a formidable but friendly R.H. Macy and does a fine job waving the flag (literally) in the anthem, “My State, My Kansas.” 

Other standouts include Glenn Weill as Mr. Shellhammer, Jeff Schlotman as the Judge, David Seven-Sky as Thomas Mara Sr., Elise Godfrey as Miss Crookshank (and others), Miguel Acevedo (Tammany), Addison Valentino (Henrika), Stacy Basinger-Goodman (Henrika’s Mother), Bill Halliburton as Mr. Sawyer (and others), and little scene-stealer John Mahanna as Thomas Mara, Jr. 

As always with Yorktown Stage productions, creative and technical quality aspire to Broadway standards, with direction by August Abatecola, choreography by Carrie Silvernail, music direction of the live orchestra by Ricky Romano, lighting design by Andrew Gmoser and sound design by Scott Tunkel.

Casey Brehm is stage manager, and the inimitable Barry Liebman, whose dedication to the arts and business savvy keep Yorktown Stage a priceless cultural treasure, is producer and artistic director.

For tickets to this weekend’s final performances, visit YorktownStage.org or call 914.962.0606. Curtain times are Friday, Nov. 24, at 1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 25, at 1 p.m. & 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 26, at 2 p.m. Ticket Prices: Children (11 and under) $19; Seniors (62 and over) and Students (under 22) $21; Adults $26. Group discounts available.   

 

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