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Miracle on 34th Street warms hearts at Theatre at the Center

The musical version of the holiday classic doesn’t disappoint

by Josh Bootsma

MUNSTER, Ind. (November 25, 2018) – When December rolls around, most of us are more than willing to appreciate a pipe-wielding snowman that talks, a red-nosed reindeer that flies, and a rotund bearded man that sneaks down chimneys. During this time of year, there are some stories that just captivate us, no matter how far-fetched.

Miracle on 34th Street is one of these stories—one that you can’t help but enjoy during the holidays. This year, Theatre at the Center is trying its hand at captivating audiences with a musical version of the classic 1947 film.

The Timeless Story

Set in New York during the holiday season, Miracle on 34th Street tells the tale of young Susan Walker (played by Stella Rose Hoyt) who meets Kris Kringle (Neil Friedman), a man playing the role of Santa at Macy’s on 34th Street in New York—who also happens to be the real Santa Claus. Susan’s mom Doris (Courtney Jones) works at Macy’s and is intent on keeping her daughter from believing the “fantasy” of Santa Claus. Miracle also follows the story of Fred Gailey (Christopher Kale Jones) as he befriends Susan, defends Kris Kringle, and starts to fall in love with Doris against his better judgment. As Kris Kringle’s real identity is tested, so too is the love that he has spread across New York.

Neil Friedman stars as Santa, who runs into trouble trying to prove that he’s truly Santa Claus. (Photo: Brett Beiner, © Theatre at the Center)

Talented Actors

The four actors that play these roles are the backbone of the musical—all are thoroughly convincing as their characters, and their vocal skills bring new life to a classic story. Hoyt is particularly charming as she portrays Susan’s gradual embrace of Santa and the love that the Christmas season brings.

Friedman stands out as Kris Kringle, making Santa Claus a real person in the play rather than a jolly, one-dimensional caricature. His performance has depth and by the end of the play the audience begins to appreciate Friedman’s character not just because he’s Santa but because he’s a kindly, good, and loving man.

A hilarious surprise is Dan Klarer as Marvin Shellhammer, who brings a comedic flair to the Macy’s manager not found in the original film.

R.H. Macy (Michael Kingston) basks in the publicity that Kris Kringle has brought to his store as Doris Walker (Courtney Jones) and Marvin Shellhammer (Dan Klarer) look on. (Photo: Brett Beiner, © Theatre at the Center)

A Classic Reimagined

The set uses a traditional storefront as the background for the play, which is cleverly used to create a courtroom, apartment, and other locales in the story. Between the stage, costumes, props, and language of the play, the audience is effectively taken back to the 1940’s.

The pit orchestra is excellent, accompanying the vocalists in numbers including Susan and Santa’s “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” “Toy Ballet”—a wonderful dance scene in which the toys of Macy’s come alive in Susan’s mind, and Santa’s unifying anthem “Here’s Love,” one of the best numbers of the show.

Toys come to life as Susan (Stella Rose Hoyt) rediscovers the power of her imagination. (Photo: Brett Beiner, © Theatre at the Center)

Miracle on 34th Street is an unabashed proclamation of love—one that still holds great value over 70 years after it was released. Theatre at the Center’s musical version of the timeless classic achieves the appeal and message of the original while using a talented cast, impressive design, and heart-warming music to make the story even more charming. It’s well worth a trip to Ridge Road in Munster to be transported to 34th Street in New York. You won’t be disappointed.

Special Events

Nov 27 and 29: Talkback Event – Audiences are invited to stay after the performance for a post-show discussion featuring members of the cast.
Dec 6 and 14: Dinner/Theatre Event – Includes pre-show dinner buffet located across from the theatre lobby. For $60 (plus tax), the evening includes dinner, fun surprises and a show.

Performance Times and Rates

Wednesdays and Thursdays: 2pm
Fridays: 7:30pm
Saturdays: 3pm and 7:30pm
Sundays: 2:30pm
*select Thursday and Sunday night performances also available

Individual ticket prices range from $42–$46. To purchase individual tickets, call the Box Office at 219-836-3255 or at 800-511-1532. Group discounts are available for groups of 11 or more. Student tickets are $20 and gift certificates are also available.

Theatre at the Center is located at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, Indiana. For more information, visit

Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.