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The musical adaptation of a holiday classic at OSTC

December 9, 2013

WARWICK – Ocean State Theatre Company is presenting the New England premiere of the holiday classic “Miracle on 34th Street” beginning this Friday.
The musical adaptation of the beloved story features several South County locals, including 12-year-old Brigid Fitzgerald of Kingston as Susan Walker.

“Miracle on 34th Street” is based on the 1947 movie of the same name, and tells the tale of a white-bearded gentleman named Kris Kringle who is hired by Macy’s to play Santa Claus at the Macy’s store on 34th Street in New York City.
Kringle claims to be the real Santa but has trouble convincing a cynical Doris Walker and her daughter, Susan.
The production weaves Kringle’s tale as he strives to foster camaraderie between Macy’s and rival department store, Gimbels, and convince the Walkers, and ultimately the state of New York, of his identity.
Barbara Hartwig is directing and choreographing the production at Ocean State Theatre Company in Warwick.
“It’s a great show for the entire family,” she said. “It’s filled with a lot of humor, dance, music and spectacle. It has a lot of joy and a lot of heart.”
Hartwig said Meredith Wilson, who wrote “The Music Man,” wrote musical adaptation of “Miracle on 34th Street.”
The show was originally released as “Here’s Love” on Broadway in 1963 and closed after eight months. The show was later re-titled “Miracle on 34th Street the Musical,” which Hartwig said is the version that will be presented at OSTC.
Hartwig said the score is pretty much the same as the one written for “Here’s Love” but the score has been changed slightly.
The score includes popular Christmas carols like “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” and others that Hartwig said audience members are sure to recognize.
She said the cast, which includes six children, has done an excellent job of bringing the tale to life.
“They’re very eager and excited about the show,” she said. “They’re very talented and getting along beautifully. They have made the process great for me in the sense that they’re excited to be here and having a great time.”
Hartwig had additional praise for Richard Koons, who plays Kris Kringle, calling him “charming and warm” and for Brigid Fitzgerald who plays Susan Walker.
“It’s a huge role and she’s doing an amazing job,” Hartwig said. “She was one of the first people to learn all her lines and dance steps and music. She is just like one of the professionals.”
Fitzgerald is in fifth grade at Monsignor Clarke School in Wakefield and is excited for first leading role.
She last acted in “Annie” at Theatre By The Sea in Matunuck over the summer.
“It’s really cool because I’ve never been a lead role in a professional show before, I was in other professional shows, but I didn’t have a big as part as this, and all the cast members are really nice. So it’s really cool.”
She said it’s been difficult to learn all of her lines.
“There’s really a lot, but it’s kind of easy for me,” she said.
Fitzgerald, who enjoys playing with her cat, Wilson, and doing arts and crafts when she’s not taking singing lessons with Jean-Pierre Ferragamo, at dance class, or at rehearsal, has been working hard balancing school, her other activities, and her role as Susan.
She said her mom works at Monsignor Clarke so she can get her homework if she has to miss school.
“It’s pretty easy because we don’t usually have a lot of rehearsals that overlap school,” she said. “I have to do homework all the time during rehearsal.”
But Fitzgerald said the other cast members sometimes help her with her homework and she enjoys their company.
“I really like all my cast members because they’re really fun and nice and there are a lot of kids to hang out with,” she said.
She is excited for the show to open and enjoys her scene and song with Kris Kringle when he is in Bellevue Hospital.
“It’s fun because there’s so much mood change in it from sad to happy and it’s fun to do that,” she said.
She said she has been inviting her friends to see the show and thinks that everyone will enjoy it.
“It’s a really good story, and it’s really good, like there are a lot of great actors and actresses in the show, there’s more singing and dancing, so if you like musicals, it’s more fun than the movie, it’s way more fun than the movie,” Fitzgerald said.
Barbara Hartwig, who has never directed “Miracle on 34th Street” before, but said she loves the movie, said her favorite scene in the show takes place in Macy’s when Kris Kringle is putting children on his lap and asking them what they want for Christmas.
“One of the children is Dutch and doesn’t speak English,” Hartwig explained. “[Kringle] speaks Dutch and they sing a song together in Dutch - Santa can understand her and sing this old Dutch song with her.”
She continued, “I love that moment because everybody begins to believe well, maybe this is the real Santa, maybe there is such a thing, and maybe he is the real one.”
Jessica Arsenian of South Kingstown plays that little Dutch girl.
Arsenian, who is 8 years old and in second grade at Peace Dale Elementary, said it was challenging to learn her lines because they’re in another language.
“I have to say a lot of hard words,” she said. “But I learned them.”
She said she practiced a lot.
Arsenian, who has been interested in theater since she was a toddler, enjoys singing a Dutch song with Kris Kringle in the show.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I like to sing my song and dance on stage.”
She said people should come and see the show because it’s a good Christmas story.
“It’s funny and happy,” she said.
Ultimately, Director Hartwig has enjoyed working with the children and all of the cast and crew of the holiday production.
Taavon Gamble, of Wakefield, is the dance captain and in the ensemble in “Miracle on 34th Street.”
He said this is the first holiday show he has ever been in, despite his extensive work history acting, dancing, choreographing and directing.
“This has been very interesting, it’s been fun,” said Gamble, who graduated from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 2008 and toured throughout the Northeast and West with ‘Seussical.’
He continued, “It’s been fun to kind of be home and working and doing a Christmas show, ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ a show that everybody knows.”
Gamble is excited to work with Barbara Hartwig again and has also enjoyed working with the children in the show.
“It’s so interesting to see the holiday through their eyes,” he said. “And also see how putting on a show is through their eyes because they’re so excited and they’re so ecstatic just to be there, it really puts the holidays and show businesses in a completely different perspective.”
His favorite scene, and one that he thinks will appeal to children in the audience, is the toy ballet in act one.
“The main little girl character, Susan, she goes to sleep, and all these different toys come to life and take her on this whole journey - that’s the part that I think kids will really like about it a lot, seeing the toys they recognize come to life,” he said.
Gamble said folks should come and see “Miracle on 34th Street” to get a new perspective on the classic movie through a musical performance.
“To see it on stage with music, and the dancing and the costumes and everything, it’s a different way of storytelling than I think people have seen ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ which I think is nice,” he said. “And it gives people the opportunity to see something other than ‘A Christmas Carol,’ I feel like everyone does ‘A Christmas Carol’ everywhere, it gives people a chance to see something different and to hear songs that they have never heard before.”
He added, “I think it has a great message for everybody, it’s a universal message for everybody.”
Hartwig agreed.
“It’s going to put everybody in the holiday spirit,” she said. “It’s a heartwarming show that puts you in a great mood. It’s the kind of show that restores your faith that maybe miracles can still happen.”

If you go
“Miracle on 34th Street” premieres Friday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Blvd., Warwick. Performances are held Thursday through Sunday Dec. 6 through Dec. 29. Show times are usually at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.; visit www.oceanstatetheater.org for complete details. Tickets are $39-$54. $30 “rush” tickets are available on a limited basis one-hour prior to curtain on the day of the performance. Tickets are on sale at the box office Monday through Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., and noon until curtain time on performance days. Tickets are also available on www.oceanstatetheatre.org or by calling 401-921-6800.

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